Tag Archive for: Desert Crown

Old enthusiasm still remains as Stoute prepares another Derby favourite

Sir Michael Stoute insists Cazoo Derby favourite Desert Crown will not have to find much improvement from his Dante success to win the Epsom Classic.

The son of Nathaniel is one of the least experienced runners he has saddled in the showpiece, having had just two runs – an easy debut win at Nottingham in November and another on his return last month, when powering to victory at York.

The Newmarket handler, who has won the Derby on five occasions – the last coming in 2010 with Workforce – admits he would like to have given the colt, who suffered a setback that delayed his three-year-old debut, a little more experience.

Desert Crown was a cosy winner at York
Desert Crown was a cosy winner at York (Tim Goode/PA)

“We went to York just in time,” said Stoute. “When he won at Nottingham, he won it and won it impressively, which surprised us last year.

“So, he obviously does a little bit more on the racecourse than he does here (at home).”

Though he suffered an interrupted preparation, Desert Crown showed an impressive turn of foot to score in the extended 10-furlong contest on the Knavesmire and is currently the 2-1 favourite with Coral for the 12-furlong Classic on June 4.

Reflecting on that run, Stoute said: “You couldn’t fault the Dante performance, which was very efficient.

“The hold-up was nothing too serious, but it held him up. He had a bruised foot. I can’t remember exactly how long he was sidelined, but it was nothing too serious, as we were able to get him going relatively quickly again. He was just about to start fast work (when the injury occurred).

“I certainly wasn’t confident going into the Dante, as I felt we were just about ready to go to the races, but I knew that he did more on the racecourse than at home, as he indicated that as a two-year-old on his only start.

“He has had just one piece of work since the Dante. It was just a loosen up, really. He went six furlongs quite comfortably.

“He would not have to come on too much (from the Dante), but it was a good performance that puts him in the reckoning.

“He did surprise me and he impressed me. It was a solid performance in a good time.”

Stoute added: “If you win the Dante, you don’t have to improve too much more to win the Derby.”

Ryan Moore and Sir Michael Stoute will be in opposition on Derby day
Ryan Moore and Sir Michael Stoute will be in opposition on Derby day (Nick Potts/PA)

Ryan Moore, who rode Workforce to success for Stoute, is still a regular rider for the Freemason Lodge handler, but will likely partner second favourite Stone Age, winner of the Leopardstown Derby Trial, for Aidan O’Brien.

Richard Kingscote will come in for only his second ride in the Derby, maintaining his partnership with the Saeed Suhail-owned Desert Crown, whose colours were carried to victory by the Stoute-trained Kris Kin in 2003.

Kingscote has become a firm favourite, riding plenty of winners for the yard and Stoute confirmed: “Richard Kingscote will ride. He is a good rider. I like working with him. He is very professional. He is a talented rider, very professional and very astute. Sometimes he is better than others – like us!

“Ryan still rides the majority of them, but Richard has ridden him plenty of work, won twice on him and gets on well with him.

“My owner is quite happy to have him on and I am, so we will go that route.”

Shergar was a famous first Derby winner for Stoute
Shergar was a famous first Derby winner for Stoute (PA)

He added: “It is nothing new for Ryan, riding against us. He has been doing it for years, riding O’Brien’s horses in important races against us sometimes. That is his first port of call.

“He makes a big contribution here, riding work and race-riding when he can after Aidan’s commitments.”

Stoute won his first Derby at the age of 35, when the legendary Shergar routed his opponents by 10 lengths in 1981.

He is 76 now and well into the autumn of his career. He suffered a major personal loss in August 2020 when his long-time partner, Coral Pritchard-Gordon, died, and he has rarely been seen on a racecourse in recent times.

Yet the cricket-mad trainer plays a straight bat to any thoughts of retirement, despite numbers of horses diminishing from 165 when he had two yards, to 100 now.

Coral Pritchard-Gordon seen with Sir Michael Stoute in 2008
Coral Pritchard-Gordon seen with Sir Michael Stoute in 2008 (John Giles/PA)

He admitted: “Of course I think about her. I miss her greatly. She was a great contributor. Coral is greatly missed by many and had a huge impact.”

Stoute has also lost a great friend, former West Indies fast bowler and ex-Sky Sports cricket commentator Michael Holding, who has departed these shores to retire in the Cayman Islands.

Asked if there had been any point in the last 10 years where he thought he might do the same and retire, Stoute quipped: “I’ve probably thought about it for the last 30 years! If you have a very bad day, you think, ‘Do I really need this?’.

“You have very disappointing days and it is very upsetting being involved with these animals. We will play it off the wicket and see what happens.

“But I hope my enthusiasm remains undiminished. I hope I am doing the job all right. The numbers are reduced and we have a smaller unit and we’ll see what happens.”

A sixth Derby success could be within Stoute's reach
A sixth Derby success could be within Stoute’s reach (Tim Goode/PA)

The love of the horse keeps him going, adding: “I think you form an affinity with the horse. That is how it begins, really. Sometimes there are many unsolved puzzles. Every day reminds you that you haven’t got it cracked – believe me!”

Despite his advancing years, Stoute is still revered by peers and public alike. Class remains permanent, as do the nerves.

The pressures of having a big-race runner may be the same as saddling “a machine” like Shergar, he admits.

“You are uptight with horses going into any big race. The Derby gets so much publicity. After a while you are a bit calmer than you were hitherto,” he said.

“So, I may seem a bit more chilled out – well, I could be pretending very well, couldn’t I?

“I can’t remember if I sat down and thought, I don’t know if I will ever win the Derby again – you just move on and you train what you have got. You can get surprises, you can get disappointments.”

Asked if Desert Crown had given him a boost, he added: “I’ll let you know after the race! All good horses are important and it is nice to have him and it has given the yard a lift.”

‘Worthy favourite’ Desert Crown tops 21 in Derby reckoning

Connections of Desert Crown believe the Dante winner is a “worthy favourite” as 21 remain in contention for the Cazoo Derby.

All the major contenders stood their ground but Sir Michael Stoute’s colt heads the bookmakers lists following his impressive victory at York last week on what was just his second start.

Stoute is searching for a sixth Derby victory and owner Saeed Suhail a second after the two combined with Kris Kin in 2003.

Suhail’s racing manager Bruce Raymond, who finished second to Commander In Chief when riding Blue Judge in the 1993 Derby, said: “All reports are good, he’s been out for a pick of grass and jogged for a few days, all fine.

“I think he’s a very worthy favourite. I think he’ll act on the track, I don’t think he’ll have any problems there at all. I think he’ll stay well, I’m not worried about that.

“It’s usually good ground there. I don’t think he’d want firm ground but it’s not a worry. It’s usually used after the race as an excuse but it’s not a worry going into it.

“There’s less razzmatazz going into it than there used to be and he looked unflappable at York.

“I’ve seen all his work and what I can say is he will definitely improve from York, as three weeks before the race he wouldn’t have been racing anywhere.

“He just blossomed which, to be fair, Michael can do to horses. He knows what they are going to do in February.

“His dam has produced all types – sprinters and stayers – but the jockey came in and said the best part was passing the post, he couldn’t pull him up.”

Desert Crown with Richard Kingscote and Sir Michael Stoute
Desert Crown with Richard Kingscote and Sir Michael Stoute (Tim Goode/PA)

The jockey, Richard Kingscote, only moved last year to take up a position with Stoute and has been immediately thrust into the spotlight.

“It’s nice for Richard, he won on him last year too and it’s worked out well,” Raymond went on.

“Look at the last few years, without being detrimental, who would have thought Adam Kirby would win the Derby on a third string (Adayar, 2021) or before that the likes of Emmet McNamara (Serpentine, 2020) or Padraig Beggy (Wings Of Eagles, 2017) for Ballydoyle.

“It’s not always Ryan Moore or Frankie Dettori, whereas in my day they were all ridden by Lester Piggott! Richard wouldn’t be riding for Michael if he wasn’t very competent.”

Stone Age strides to victory at Leopardstown
Stone Age strides to victory at Leopardstown (Brian Lawless/PA)

Aidan O’Brien has five contenders left in via Stone Age, Changingoftheguard, Ivy League, Star Of India and United Nations.

Joseph O’Brien has left in Buckaroo while Donnacha O’Brien has Piz Badile, set to be the mount of Dettori.

Eydon, Nahanni, and Westover are others to note. The most notable of the scratchings was David Simcock’s Cash, a fast-finishing second to Westover in the Classic Trial at Sandown.

Ladbrokes make Desert Crown their 2-1 favourite ahead of Stone Age (5-2) and Changingoftheguard and Piz Badile at 7-1.

Monday Musings: Paging Richard’s Granny!

One early morning a few years ago in the days when I still bought a Racing Post rather than access the online version, my regular source did not have a copy, writes Tony Stafford. Not to be outdone I jumped in the car and made a stop at Tesco’s big store at Bromley-By-Bow in between Hackney Wick and Bow.

With only one till open I took my copy and, from memory, a BLT sandwich and went to pay. The senior lady with her full Cockney accent, looked and said: “Oh, you like racing? My grandson’s in racing. He’s a jockey. He’s Richard Kingscote!”

Now more normally you might expect to find grandparents of jockeys to have farms in Limerick or Wiltshire or to have ridden themselves. I doubt Grandma Kingscote – it could just as easily have been Piggott, Eddery or Buick but I think that unlikely - woke to the sounds of horses’ nostrils snorting in her early days which I guessed might have been, like mine, in the East End of London with bomb craters from World War II lingering still around every corner.

I mentioned that meeting to Richard soon after and wish I’d have gone into his heritage a little more. I bet granny wouldn’t have expected her grandson to have made the remarkable change in his source and scene of employment, so secure did the Michael Owen/Andrew Black/Tom Dascombe and Kingscote combination appear then and for a few years after.

Kingscote jumped first, moving south to pick up good rides from Newmarket stables, notably for Sir Michael Stoute, increasingly denied use of his long-term stable jockey Ryan Moore by his lucrative, Classic-bountiful Coolmore job.

Then Dascombe clearly got the tin-tack and he now operates with a team of 13 in Lambourn. Whether he can reinvigorate his career will be a serious challenge, though his interview on Luck On Sunday yesterday related that he’s up for it. All a jockey needs when forced to make a move is a saddle, a pair of boots, an agent and a car to take him to as many stables as he can to ride out and make an impression. Would-be trainers must (for starters) convince the BHA that they have the financial resources to set up and carry their (hopefully) growing business.

It helps if your dad was/is a trainer and he can help you along in the manner of a Crisford, Gosden, Johnston or even a Ferguson. So much more power then to the elbows of such as Boughey and Clover. George went close again yesterday when 1,000 Guineas heroine, Cachet, made a brave attempt to follow up in the French 1,000 at Longchamp, finishing second to the Mikel Delzangles-trained Mangoustine, ridden by the remarkable Gerald Mosse.

Half an hour later the Godolphin blue (Charlie Appleby brand) followed their Newmarket 2,000 one-two with Coroebus and Native Trail by sending out Modern Games under William Buick to win the counterpart French colts’ Classic.

Unraced since winning the hotly-contested Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar last November, the son of Dubawi came home strongly and adds his name to the already formidable team for the Boys in Blue in the major mile races.

They will still have to go some to match the year-older Baaeed in that division after the William Haggas four-year-old brought his tally to seven from seven when winning the Lockinge at Newbury. He started that career less than a year ago on the same course and looks set to be put right to the top of the official rankings after this display.

To be more accurate, Baaeed didn’t just win, he made mincemeat of a strong field of milers and the disdainful three-and-a-bit lengths by which he beat the Saeed Bin Suroor-trained runner-up Real World (a Coolmore-type sighter?) suggests even Classic form later in the season from the best of the younger generation will not be enough to stop him.

The big two power-houses are as strong as ever, but Baaeed’s trainer, William Haggas, is making ever more forceful strides in their pursuit and Baaeed was one of 13 winners for his Newmarket stable in the past fortnight. If you don’t enjoy backing short-priced favourites, never mind, just make sure you take your place early on day one at Royal Ascot when this potential world champion will be the stand-out in the Queen Anne Stakes.

But Richard Kingscote has matters more immediate on his mind after last week’s Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York. Riding Sir Michael Stoute’s Desert Crown on only his second racecourse appearance, he brought the Nathaniel colt home well clear of a strong field to clinch what is often the best of the Derby trials.

Ryan Moore was third in the race on the Galileo colt Bluegrass and that colt is sure to do better in time.  They were split by the Johnstons’ Royal Patronage who had run a reasonable race in the 2,000 Guineas, not far behind the principals having attempted to force the pace.

When Nathaniel made his racecourse debut at the Newmarket July meeting in the evening maiden race also chosen by Sir Henry Cecil for Frankel, both colts being by Galileo, there was only a half length between them at the line.

Frankel never lost a race; Nathaniel did, but also won plenty, including the King George and Eclipse at Group 1 level. He has been a great servant to Newsells Park stud where his fee for 2022 was only £15,000 but one eternal distinction is that his daughter Enable was probably the best filly to race in Europe in this century.

Now he could be getting his first Derby winner with a Tattersalls Book 2 purchase, admittedly bought for the respectable figure of 280,000gns. How this year’s Book 2 catalogue will celebrate him, Derby success or not!

Desert Crown has been brought along with typical patience by Sir Michael, who has five Epsom Derby winners to his credit, the last three since he was honoured by his home country Barbados for services unconnected to his profession. Ryan Moore rode the last of them, Workforce, in 2010 and was also on the Aidan O’Brien winner Ruler Of The World three years later.

The Derby can often throw up unexpected winning jockeys and you only have to go back to last year when Adam Kirby was the popular beneficiary of William Buick’s decision to ride third-placed Hurricane Lane, leaving Kirby to fill in on easy winner, Adayar.

O’Brien and Charlie Appleby between them have won the last five editions of the Blue Riband and only once has the stable first string been on the right one. That was Buick on Masar in 2018. Ryan has had to watch on from behind as first Padraig Beggy (on Wings Of Eagles), Seamie Heffernan on Anthony Van Dyck and, most recently, Emmet McNamara (Serpentine) won the spoils.

To think that Beggy and McNamara together have ridden as many Epsom Derby winners as the flawless Ryan Moore. As I mentioned last week, Ryan’s riding has been exemplary this season and I think we can expect a ride of supreme skill on Stone Age on June 4.

I have no idea whether Richard Kingscote’s grandma remains in good health. I hope she does and, even more fervently, that she has been gathered up by all the excitement that Richard will almost certainly be on the favourite that day; even more so that she can be there, because I’d love to meet her again!

One horse I would hope turns up on that day is Saturday’s stylish Newmarket sprint winner, Dusky Lord, who came through the eye of the proverbial needle to win the finale after a six-month absence.

I was happy to be representing part-owner Jonathan Barnett and, given the way in which he came through to make it three wins from six, I think this previous Brighton winner could win the Dash, a race I believe Raymond Tooth should have won with Catfish ten years ago.

The fact this remains the fastest-ever electronically-timed five-furlong race is a major achievement for John Best, who saddled the 50/1 winner Stone Of Folca to record a time of 53.69 seconds, which has never been beaten. That works out as an average speed for the entire trip of 41.9 miles per hour.

Catfish stayed on strongly after a tardy start to finish third in the big field, beaten for second by Andrew Balding’s Desert Law. But when Mikael Barzalona returned, he said: “She was unlucky. My saddle slipped at the start and the way she finished if I could have ridden her properly, I’m certain she would have won.”

David Egan reckoned after Saturday that Dusky Lord definitely needed the outing after his six-month absence. Now the Dash is back as a 100 grand race with half of that going to the winning owners. That’s worth going for, don’t you agree Roger?

- TS

Kingscote living Derby dream with Desert Crown

When Richard Kingscote took the decision to leave his old ally Tom Dascombe and join forces with Sir Michael Stoute, only in his wildest dreams could he have imagined he would be riding the Cazoo Derby favourite Desert Crown the following spring.

Kingscote knew that when taking the job he would be playing second fiddle to Ryan Moore whenever the former champion was free from his commitment to Aidan O’Brien, but given Moore is in Ireland most weekends, Kingscote would still be picking up some good rides.

However, in recent years Stoute has been quiet by his exceedingly high standards and many felt Kingscote had made the wrong move given when aligned with Dascombe he was guaranteed a healthy stream of winners every year.

Fast forward 10 months and Dascombe is no longer inhabiting Michael Owen’s Manor House Stables, having to start afresh in Lambourn, and Kingscote is now sitting pretty on Desert Crown, the general 2-1 market leader for Epsom.

Having been an ante-post gamble in the week prior to his reappearance, some eyebrows were raised at Derby odds around the 6-1 mark when all the Nathaniel colt had on his CV to date was win a Nottingham maiden in November.

Desert Crown and Richard Kingscote after winning the Dante
Desert Crown and Richard Kingscote after winning the Dante (Tim Goode/PA)

As the Al Basti Equiworld-sponsored Dante approached at York, confidence appeared to wain, especially when Stoute admitted his preparation had been far from smooth with a setback earlier in the spring.

But Stoute has not achieved what he has by being far from the mark when he thinks he has a good one and Desert Crown put to bed a good field with ease, coming home three and a quarter lengths clear of the Acomb winner Royal Patronage with O’Brien’s Bluegrass a further two and a half away.

Far from being carried away by the experience, Kingscote appeared to be taking it all in his stride. Just as his mount did.

“He was very relaxed, I got him into a nice rhythm, we moved well into the straight and he did everything I asked him, I was pleased,” said Kingscote.

“It’s still early days for him, but after a performance like that you hope things can be exciting. Of course Ryan’s horse in Ireland (Stone Age) was very impressive and going to a Derby is always going to be difficult.

“Horses are all individuals and sometimes you can think they are going to improve a lot and they don’t quite improve as much as you would think.

“He’s done well from two to three, I was taken with how well he’s filled out and they’ve done a great job with him.

“Absolutely this is exciting for me and I’m in a very privileged position to be able to work under Sir Michael and Ryan, I’ve been lucky Ryan had one in the race today and people were nice enough to let me on. Fortunately I delivered on that so I’m very pleased.”

Kingscote, despite being one of the elder weighing-room statesmen, has only had one Derby ride to date, and it did not go well.

“I’ve had one ride in the Derby for Harry Dunlop who had won the Lingfield Derby Trial (Knight To Behold in 2018). It was no good, it didn’t go so well (11th of 12),” he said.

“I was in front a long time today so I think we can forgive him drifting to his right so I’m not totally concerned about that.

“I’ve no issue about going up in trip, he ran right through the line and is very relaxed so he’s answered quite a few questions and has done it in a likeable manner.”

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.”

Desert Crown puts Derby hopes on the line in Dante test

Derby plunge horse Desert Crown and Group One-winning colt El Bodegon are among nine colts declared for the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York on Thursday.

Despite only winning a Nottingham novice event to date, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Desert Crown is a best priced 6-1 for next month’s premier Classic following sustained support in recent weeks.

The Nathaniel colt, who carries the colours of Stoute’s 2003 Derby hero Kris Kin, is the narrow favourite to book his ticket to Epsom with victory on the Knavesmire under Richard Kingscote.

Speaking after steering the Stoute-trained Kiteflyer to victory at Chepstow on Tuesday, Kingscote told Sky Sports Racing: “He (Desert Crown) was impressive first time and I know the boss is delighted with him at home.

Richard Kingscote rides Desert Crown in the Dante Stakes
Richard Kingscote rides Desert Crown in the Dante Stakes (Adam Davy/PA)

“I’m looking forward to him on Thursday. We’ll learn more about him and he’ll learn more about the game.

“We’re all in the same boat. No one has really had any nice ground to gallop on – we’re all suffering with a bit of a dry spell. But I’m sure York have produced lovely ground, as they always do.”

James Ferguson’s El Bodegon makes 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, with both Benny The Dip (1997) and Golden Horn (2015) both going on to follow up in the Derby.

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.”