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Too Darn Hot bids to kick off 2024 with a bang both on the track and in the ring

$1 million yearling Too Darn Lizzie set for first outing in next week’s Magic Millions The Debut

With the opening day of the 2024 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale fast approaching, one stallion’s progeny that will no doubt be on plenty of people’s lists is that of Darley’s burgeoning first-season sire Too Darn Hot (Dubawi), and dual-hemisphere bloodstock agent Johnny McKeever feels the young shuttler is well placed to produce some fireworks in the ring once again.

Too Darn Hot finished the northern hemisphere season with four individual Group winners to his name, making him the first first-season sire to achieve this feat in the region. With Fallen Angel, winner of the Moyglare Stud Stakes (Gr 1, 7f), and Group 2 scorer Darnation, headline acts among his European-bred crop, the stallion is already beginning to make a splash Down Under. 

So far, in the southern hemisphere, the regally bred son of Dubawi (Dubai Millennium) has had three winners, including current Magic Millions 2YO Classic (RL, 1200m) favourite Arabian Summer. 

Too Darn Hot’s racecourse results have come hot on the heels of a brilliant first year of success in sales rings across Australasia and they were headlined by a filly who sold for a cool $1 million on the Gold Coast in January.

That filly, now named Too Darn Lizzie, sits as the $2.50 favourite in the fillies’ division for next Saturday’s $500,000 Magic Millions The Debut (1000m) after turning plenty of heads with a four-and-a-quarter-length trial win at Warwick Farm a fortnight ago, and looks to produce what could be a break-out success for her sire in the region.

Consigned by Vinery Stud, Too Darn Lizzie was purchased by McKeever in conjunction with the filly’s trainers Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott and Too Darn Hot’s owners, Lord and Lady Webber’s Watership Down Stud and she will sport their famous pale-pink colours when she makes her debut next week. 

“She was the make and shape of a two-year-old. She just had that look about her,” McKeever told ANZ Bloodstock News. “We wanted to buy something to promote Too Darn Hot so we didn’t want to purchase something that was going to need a long time.

“As we know from domestic results back in the UK, Too Darn Hot’s progeny are not sharp early two-year-olds, they’re more late two-year-olds that are going to be better at three.

“However, these Australian mares are much speedier than ours back home, certainly the ones that our patrons would use for Too Darn Hot in the UK. This filly is out of a Blue Diamond runner-up, who was a very nice two-year-old, so it was always going to be a possibility that she’d be as much Aussie as she is British in a speed and stamina sense.”

Too Darn Lizzie was the most expensive offspring to sell by her sire in 2023 and the million-dollar-winning bid meant she finished the sale as the most expensive yearling offered by any first-season sire at Magic Millions last year. 

“She maybe wouldn’t have been a million if the McEvoy’s [Tony and Calvin] hadn’t been so determined to get her.” McKeever joked.

“She just happened to be the one that we decided to go for and it was nearly the end of the sale, in which we’d already missed out on a few, so we had to try our best to buy her.”

McKeever said the filly had been considered for a run of the mill maiden at Canterbury this week, however, Waterhouse and Bott decided to head for the much larger pot on the Gold Coast instead.

“I think she is a runner [next Saturday], she was due to run at Canterbury this week in an ordinary maiden race but they’ve elected to send her to the Gold Coast instead,” he said.

“There is a huge difference in prize-money so they could be looking to claim some of that purchase price back immediately, but it also shows Gai and Adrian must think a bit of her otherwise she wouldn’t be going.

“However, it is her first race, so I don’t want to be saying she’s the greatest thing since sliced bread before she has even run.”

Should Too Darn Lizzie go on to score in next weekend’s contest, it would be a great advertisement for Too Darn Hot in Australia and could cap off a potentially hugely successful week, with McKeever expecting the stallion’s 14 lots from his second southern hemisphere-bred crop set to go under the hammer at next week’s Magic Millions to be popular with buyers.

“I’ve loved the Too Darn Hot models down here, in fact possibly more so than the ones in Europe,” McKeever said. 

“He’s a refined sort of stallion that is really suited to a slightly stronger mare and the ones down here tend to be a bit heavier and stronger than back home, so that’s a good combination. 

“They sold out of their skins last year and he’s had three winners from just five runners so far, so for a stallion that we know isn’t going to be getting early types that is a very positive sign.

“It sometimes seems they generally don’t trust the northern hemisphere stallions as much down here but I think they liked his looks and his first foals and yearlings. I’d expect they’ll sell quite well again.”

Too Darn Hot, a three-time Group 1 winner that was never out of the placings in a stellar nine-start career, including an unbeaten juvenile campaign that saw him crowned European Champion Two-Year-Old in 2018, registered 26 winners in the northern hemisphere last year, including four at Group level, a feat that has seen his fee rise from £40,000 to £65,000 (approx. AU$122,720) for 2024, which is considerably higher than his $44,000 (inc GST) fee, the price he has stood at in four seasons covering mares at Darley’s Kelvinside base in the Hunter Valley.

“He’s at a very nice and competitive price for the Aussies,” McKeever said. “He is a European champion coming to stand down here for a fraction of what it would have cost for an Australian comparison and he was one of just a few in that price bracket.”

That opinion is seemingly shared by fellow industry peers with Too Darn Hot attracting plenty of suitors, having covered 130 mares in his first season in 2020, then 131 the following year, before serving 132 in 2022 and 119 last year. 

“He has never not been completely full for any of his Australian seasons so far, including this last one,” McKeever said. “He’s up there being talked about as one of the better first-season sires just off the back of three winners. 

“It’s early in the season for any real talk, with plenty of good juveniles yet to be seen, but it is clearly a good sign for the future.”

As for McKeever, it was a case of marking his Magic Millions card during the long journey to the Gold Coast from his Newmarket base, with plenty of inspection appointments on the agenda.

“I’ve marked up my catalogue now, the ones in here don’t seem to be from major mares so it’ll be a case of analysing them as physicals and reporting back into the team at home and seeing how we go,” he said.

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