Circus Maximus showed his adaptability when dropping back in trip to land the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Last seen finishing sixth in the Investec Derby at Epsom, the Galileo colt needed to be supplemented at a cost of £45,000 for the Group 1 QIPCO British Champions Series contest over a mile.
Having won the Dee Stakes over an extended 10 furlongs before his tilt at Classic glory, it was seen as a bold move by Aidan O’Brien running him over half a mile less.
Wearing blinkers for the first time, Ryan Moore was happy to take a lead off Fox Champion before making his bid for home with two furlongs to run.
As Irish Guineas winner Phoenix Of Spain dropped away, the favourite Too Darn Hot became embroiled in a battle with Circus Maximus (10-1).
Having seen off last year’s champion juvenile, it was his John Gosden-trained stablemate King Of Comedy who flew home to get closest at the line, but Circus Maximus held on by a neck, with Too Darn Hot three-quarters of a length away in third.
O’Brien said: “Derrick (Smith), John (Magnier) and Michael (Tabor) all decided between themselves (to run in this race) and at 11.45am (on the day of supplementary entries) they let us know that they were thinking of doing this and we ran with it.
“It’s hard to believe and we’re just privileged to be a small part of it. It was a big challenge for the horse and it was a very difficult one to deal with – coming back (in trip) like that – and that’s why he had the blinkers on, because he didn’t have much time to learn.”
He added: “We always thought he was a very good horse and he wasn’t beaten far in the Racing Post Trophy last year. He was a green horse that was rushed as a two-year-old.
“He went to Chester and won the trial and then he went to Epsom and Frankie (Dettori) said he didn’t handle the track, so that is why we came back to a mile. Ryan gave him a great ride.
“In all fairness to the horse we pitched him in and asked him a difficult question. We always thought a mile and a mile and a quarter was his trip, even though we ran him in the Derby.
“I think you have a choice of the Sussex or Eclipse and both would be strong possibles.
A philosophical Gosden said: “One ran out of track and the other found the mile too stiff. Too Darn Hot ran a very good race, came to win his race and got in front. He’s built very powerfully. He looks like a sprinter/miler.
“Frankie (Dettori) said he feels like a Jersey horse and that’s what he is. He was champion two-year-old, won the Dewhurst in great style, but stamina wasn’t for him today.”
He added of King Of Comedy: “Adam (Kirby) said it was a pity he had to go round. Another 25 yards and he could have won.
“It’s interesting. King Of Comedy will go a mile and a quarter, whereas Too Darn Hot needs an easy mile or seven furlongs. The Sussex Stakes will be his target.”