‘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.

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