Royal Patronage on Derby trail for Highclere

Royal Patronage will carry the hopes of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing in the Cazoo Derby on Saturday week after connections ruled out running the promising Lysander at Epsom.

Having finished second to Derby favourite Desert Crown in the Dante Stakes at York a fortnight ago, Mark and Charlie Johnston have given Royal Patronage the green light to take his chance in the premier Classic.

Highclere’s managing director Harry Herbert has since made no secret of the regard in which the William Haggas-trained Lysander is held and hoped he too might book his ticket for Epsom with victory in the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood.

But having come up narrowly short on the Sussex Downs – beaten three-quarters of a length into third – his sights have now been turned towards Royal Ascot.

Herbert said: “We had high hopes for Lysander and we still do, it was just very frustrating when the rain arrived at Goodwood.

“I think this horse has such a good action and he was slightly all at sea off that slow pace when they really quickened it up, but he still ran a hell of a race.

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“We’re not going to the Derby with him now and will head to either the Hampton Court or the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.

“He had a hard race the other day in sticky ground and William just feels going to Epsom would be the wrong move for the horse right now.

“He’s very talented and we never like turning down the Derby, but we’ll take a longer term view.”

Jason Hart and Royal Patronage after winning the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket
Jason Hart and Royal Patronage after winning the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket (Tim Goode/PA)

Despite being beaten just over three lengths by 9-4 Epsom favourite Desert Crown at York, Royal Patronage is a general 25-1 shot.

Herbert is not necessarily expecting the Highclere runner to reverse that form, but does feel he has been underestimated in the market.

He added: “He’ll definitely run there, all being well. I spoke to Charlie Johnston on Tuesday morning and he tells me he’s in very good form.

“He won impressively at Epsom last year, so he’s handled the track pretty well and we’re hopeful that he’ll stay the mile and a half. If he does, he could give everyone a lovely shout.

“We feel the rhythm of the Dante possibly didn’t suit him as they went slow and then really sprinted, but take nothing away from the winner, who won well and deserves to be Derby favourite.

“It’s a difficult race and anything can happen, as we’ve seen so many times before.

“I think we’re probably too big a price for a talented horse who is proven on the track.”

One who could still turn up at Epsom is Godolphin’s Nations Pride who came through a workout on Wednesday morning and a decision on whether to supplement him will be made in the next 48 hours.

Trainer Charlie Appleby said on Godolphin’s Twitter account: “Nations Pride has impressed in his work at Moulton Paddocks this morning with William Buick on board. A decision will be made in the next 48 hours whether he will be supplemented for the G1 Derby @EpsomRacecourse.”

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