Stoute ready to take the wraps off Derby hope Desert Crown

Sir Michael Stoute insists Desert Crown is “not a spectacular homeworker” ahead of his highly-anticipated reappearance in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York.

The master of Freemason Lodge has saddled six previous winners of the recognised Derby trial, with both Shahrastani (1986) and North Light (2004) going on to claim Epsom glory.

Desert Crown, who has so far only won a minor maiden event at Nottingham, has been a huge mover in the ante-post market for the premier Classic in recent weeks and is now a best priced 6-1.

The Nathaniel colt, who carries the same Saeed Suhail colours of 2003 Derby hero Kris Kin, is the narrow favourite to book his ticket to Epsom with victory on the Knavesmire – but Stoute has revealed his preparation through the spring has not been straightforward.

“We’re only just up for a race and that’s why he hasn’t run yet – because he had a minor hiccup, which has delayed the start of his season,” said the trainer.

“We’ve only just got him there ready to go to the races. He’s not a spectacular homeworker and he surprised us when he won at Nottingham last year.

“His work here has been workmanlike – but he’s a very talked about horse!”

Desert Crown is one of nine colts declared for Thursday’s feature, with James Ferguson’s El Bodegon making his first appearance since rounding off his juvenile campaign with a top-level triumph in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud in October.

That form has worked out exceptionally well, with Aidan O’Brien’s runner-up Stone Age now Derby favourite and the fourth home Buckaroo also impressing on his latest appearance.

John Gosden has trained four previous winners of the Dante, including two subsequent Epsom scorers in Benny The Dip (1997) and Golden Horn (2015).

This year the Clarehaven handler, who now trains in partnership with son Thady, is represented by recent Leicester scorer Magisterial, the mount of Frankie Dettori.

Mark and Charlie Johnston’s Royal Patronage turns out less than two weeks after finishing down the field in the 2000 Guineas, while Bluegrass bids to strengthen O’Brien’s formidable Derby hand.

Masekela is an interesting contender for Andrew Balding off the back of finishing second in Newmarket’s Feilden Stakes.

The field is completed by Kevin Ryan’s Dark Moon Rising, Saeed bin Suroor’s White Wolf and the Dave Loughnane-trained Kingmax, who steps up in trip after finishing fourth behind Native Trail in the Craven Stakes.

Loughnane said: “I have no worries at all about the trip, to be honest – I’ve always felt he wanted a mile and a quarter.

“We ran him in the Craven to see if he was going to be quick enough for a Guineas or not. He showed to us that he wasn’t, so I’d be very hopeful a mile and a quarter shouldn’t be a problem at all for him.

“He was only rated 86 going into the Craven, so it was a proper hike up and I think he’ll be a much better horse over 10 furlongs.”

Kingmax is not currently entered in the Derby at Epsom, but could yet earn himself a starting berth.

“We feel he’s good enough to be in these sort of races and he has to go and prove it on the track now,” the trainer added.

“The Dante is the plan for now. He’s got an entry in the French Derby, which is also over 10 furlongs.

“If he was to go and run very well or win the Dante and we thought he’d get further, there’s always the option to supplement for Epsom.”

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