Stoute looks to Desert Crown to deliver evocative sixth Derby success

Memories of great days in Epsom history will come flooding back when Desert Crown bids to give Sir Michael Stoute his sixth victory in the Cazoo Derby.

Stoute first won the premier Classic – which is this year being run in memory of Lester Piggott – with the legendary Shergar in 1981 and in the 41 years since has added a further four Epsom victories thanks to Shahrastani (1986), Kris Kin (2003), North Light (2004) and Workforce (2010).

Now into his 50th year in the training ranks, the Barbadian has the chance to end a 12-year barren spell in the Classics since Workforce’s Epsom triumph.

Desert Crown caught the eye with a taking five-and-a-half-length victory on debut at Nottingham last November and defied an interrupted spring when impressing in the Dante Stakes on just his second start at York.

That catapulted the son of Nathaniel to the head of the Derby betting and he will be partnered at Epsom by Richard Kingscote, who is having just his second ride in the 12-furlong Classic.

“Desert Crown is workmanlike. He is not spectacular at home. This fella has a very good mind and is a very relaxed horse, and he’s done nothing wrong on the racecourse – in fact, he’s done rather well,” said Stoute.

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“He is probably the most inexperienced horse we have sent to the Derby, because he has only had two starts and I think they all had more than two.

“It would have been nice to have had two two-year-old races or even three – or two this year, rather than one.

Michael Stoute File Photo
Sir Michael Stoute is looking for his sixth victory in the Cazoo Derby (Tim Goode/PA)

“But York was a pleasing performance and a good, solid time. He does not have to improve much. If you win the Dante, you don’t have to improve too much more to win the Derby.

“As for the trip, he has got to do it. He has some speed in the dam’s side. He is a nice athlete with a lovely temperament. He is very chilled.

“He is a good-looking, good-actioned horse with a good temperament, but we had to learn something about on him on a racecourse (at York) – and it was a positive.”

Desert Crown could become the second Saeed Suhail-owned colt trained by Stoute to prevail in the Derby following Kris Kin’s success.

Given one of the great Derby rides by Kieren Fallon, Kris Kin’s win is regarded as one of Stoute’s finest training performances, although victory for this year’s favourite, on just his third start, could match that achievement.

Bruce Raymond, who serves as racing manager to Suhail, is bullish about Desert Crown’s chance and believes the Freemason Lodge handler is the perfect man to have him peaking on the big day.

He said: “I think he is a good horse, dare I say it, as Sir Michael Stoute doesn’t like people talking about his horses.

“He is a good horse and I’m pretty confident he is the best horse going into the race, but coming out of it is different, isn’t it? He has to go to the start, he has to behave himself – and he will behave himself – will he get the luck in running?

“I think he will probably turn out to be the best horse in the race afterwards for sure. I think he’ll win.

“Whatever, I think he is a very good horse. He will finish up being very good, whether it is back-end of this year or next year or whatever. He is definitely a good horse.

“He quickens well. You’d be cautious that he has not had that much experience, but he is trained by a genius, even though he would rather have got another run into him, of course.

“I don’t go and say, ‘I think this horse would prefer easy ground’, you wouldn’t say he won’t go in fast ground. I just don’t think you should look for excuses before the race.

Kris Kin Derby winner
Kris Kin with trainer Michael Stoute before winning the 2003 Epsom Derby (Rebecca Naden/PA)

“Epsom always produce perfect ground. They look after it very well. There are no concerns.”

He added: “We gave Kris Kin a chance after Chester (Dee Stakes). But this is a better horse than Kris Kin. He was just a horse. This is a classy horse, this one.”

Of all Stoute’s victories in the Derby, it is perhaps his first which remains the most famous when the incomparable Shergar sauntered to that 10-length success in 1981.

Shergar went on to do the Derby-double when adding the Irish equivalent at the Curragh and also picked up the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot before finishing his career with defeat in the St Leger.

Stoute looks back fondly on a horse he describes as a “machine” and also recounts the time the Aga Khan’s colt decided he preferred the scenery at Warren Place to his home at Freemason Lodge.

He said: “Shergar did it in the mornings and the afternoons, that’s for sure. Shahrastani was a very reliable work horse, too.

“Shergar was a machine. (Sir) Henry (Cecil) did a better job with Frankel than I did with Shergar as I shouldn’t have run him in the St Leger.

“He was bombproof and had a wonderful temperament in addition to being a well-balanced, medium-sized athlete.

Walter Swinburn and the incomparable Shergar
Walter Swinburn and the incomparable Shergar (PA)

“He was never a problem, he would just spin around every now and again. You remember the famous story when he spun around and got rid of his rider.

“In those days you could do all your work in the winter. We used to go into Moulton and up the hill to Warren Place and on his own, that was the route he went.

“He stopped and was picking one of the hedges outside of Warren Place, so he obviously wanted to go in there! We were very lucky there was no long-term damage.”

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