Stoute rolls back the years as Desert Crown delivers Derby delight

Just the small matter of 41 years on from his first Derby success with the legendary Shergar, Sir Michael Stoute produced another potential superstar as Desert Crown strolled to victory at Epsom.

Sent off the 5-2 favourite having easily won the Dante Stakes at York, a tried and tested route of Stoute’s, the son of Nathaniel had been an unconsidered 33-1 shot for the blue riband as the Guineas were being run.

Having suffered a setback in the spring, his handler had been worried the York race would come too soon and admitted to being taken aback by the ease of his victory on the Knavesmire.

There was never any doubt he would be the one to beat after that, but with Aidan O’Brien and Charlie Appleby both fielding three viable challengers in a field of 17, Desert Crown’s main danger in a a race run this in memory of Lester Piggott could have proved to be traffic.

As soon as Richard Kingscote adopted a position in the first half a dozen those fears dissipated, though, and having chosen to track Ryan Moore on Stone Age, when he made his move Kingscote suddenly found himself in front.

Desert Crown was an impressive winner of the Derby
Desert Crown was an impressive winner of the Derby (Tim Goode/PA)

In truth, the race was over three furlongs out, and while Hoo Ya Mal and the staying-on Westover closed to within two and a half lengths, Desert Crown’s superiority was marked.

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While Stoute stopped short of comparing him to Shergar, he once again houses one of the most exciting horses in training and thankfully Desert Crown’s temperament was bombproof as fireworks were let off over the grandstand before the race.

Stoute said: “It’s just a delight to train nice horses and I’ll never tire of that. Fortunately we have come across another good one. We were very hopeful after York that he might win the Derby.

“I was very happy when he got to the top of the hill, he was really (well) positioned, he travelled and floated down the hill.

“Shergar was very special, he hasn’t quite reached that stage but he has potential.”

Stoute had not won the Derby since Workforce broke the track record in 2010, but never gave up hope he would be back in the hallowed winner’s enclosure one day.

“I didn’t know if Workforce would be the last one, you realise as time moves on your chances lessen but it had been a lot of years and some people didn’t think I’d win another,” he said.

“We’d been getting a lot of well wishers as they were impressed with him in the Dante.

“It has been a great afternoon. I am to be proud of that (oldest trainer to win the Derby at age 76), I’m proud of the horse.

“That it is very nice (winning the Derby in Platinum Jubilee year), but I’m sad I didn’t win it for her (the Queen) as I think we were unlucky with Carlton House (third in 2011) – that would have been the biggest thrill.

“It is always nice to see the Queen racing here and Ascot and anywhere.”

As ever, Stoute would not be drawn on future plans, but a crack at the Irish Derby would look the next logical step.

Jockey Richard Kingscote and trainer Sir Michael Stoute with the Cazoo Derby trophy
Jockey Richard Kingscote and trainer Sir Michael Stoute with the Cazoo Derby trophy (Tim Goode/PA)

“I think you have to go home and see how they take it, we’ll just try to get it right and see how his recovery is,” he said.

“He’ll be fine over 10 furlongs, these good horses are fine over a variety of trips.”

For the man on board it was the crowning moment of his career. Whereas Stoute was winning a sixth Derby, this was a first Classic for Kingscote.

“Once I got to the top of the hill I was pretty happy. I was one off the fence which was great as I thought for a minute I was going to be trapped three deep which I didn’t want to be,” he said.

“He was travelling so nicely, he gave me a great ride. The way he was going, once we came over the road and changed leads he skipped away and I was quite taken with him, as Sir Michael said I was maybe a bit sharp but he was very good.

“After York I’d been quite confident, but having not ridden a Derby winner before I didn’t want to get my hopes up. He’s got a lovely character and he’s clearly very good.

“This is huge for a rider, any rider, to win the Derby. Lots of jockeys go through their career without riding in a Derby or winning a Derby. I owe this to Sir Michael and his owners and staff and all the other trainers who have supported me along the way.

“I’d said before the race about how I wanted it to go and that must have come pretty close to it. I didn’t expect to be as handy as I was but other than that it went beautifully.”

Desert Crown comes home in isolation
Desert Crown comes home in isolation (John Walton/PA

Kingscote is not your stereotypical jockey, he has plenty of tattoos and loves riding high-powered motorcycles, and it seems he already has his eyes on a new addition to his collection.

“I think I might get another bike, it might be on the cards, yes. Maybe a Ducati if this man (Stoute) will let me,” he added.

There was a curious postscript to the race as Desert Crown must pass a stalls test before his next engagement.

The official stewards’ report read: “The starter reported that Desert Crown was the subject of a third criteria failure. Sir Michael Stoute was informed that the colt could not run until the day after passing a stalls test.”

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