Derby favourite Desert Crown looking to win Classic race for a sixth time for Sir Michael Stoute
Sir Michael Stoute is confident Desert Crown is capable of providing him with a sixth Cazoo Derby victory on Saturday (4.30pm) – 41 years after he first won the Epsom Downs Classic with Shergar.
The son of Nathanial will attempt to follow in the hoofprints of the legendary 1981 winner and his Newmarket handler’s other Derby heroes – Shahrastani (1986), Kris Kin (2003), North Light (2004) and Workforce (2010) – as Stoute celebrates his 50th year as a trainer.
After making a winning debut at Nottingham in November on his sole start as a two-year-old, Desert Crown thrust to the top of the betting for the Cazoo Derby with a stylish success in the Group Two Al Basti Equiworld Dante Stakes at York earlier this month.
Following his latest success, 76-year-old Stoute believes that his rising star, who like 2003 winner Kris Kin is owned by Saeed Suhail, would not have to ‘improve much’ from his performance on the Knavesmire to end his 12-year wait for a Derby victory.
Stoute said of Desert Crown: “You couldn’t fault the Dante performance – he was very efficient. I certainly wasn’t confident (going to York) as we were only just ready to go to the races as he had a hold-up with a bruised foot.
“When he won at Nottingham, he won impressively which surprised us last year. So he obviously does a little more on the racecourse than he does here.
“He was a good looking horse with a good temperament, but we had to learn something about him on the racecourse and it was a positive.
“He had just one piece of work since the Dante. It was just a loosen-up really. He went six furlongs quite comfortably. He is workmanlike and not spectacular at home.
“He wouldn’t have to come on too much but it was a good performance that puts him in the reckoning. He did surprise me (at York). It was a solid performance in a good time. If you win the Dante you don’t have to improve much to win The Derby.
“He has still got to do it though. He is a nice athlete and has a lovely temperament. All good horses are important and it is nice to have them and it has given the yard a great lift.”
Ryan Moore, who was aboard Stoute’s latest Derby winner Workforce, will be required by Aidan O’Brien, which leaves the multiple Group 1-winning trainer turning to the services of Richard Kingscote, who has partnered Desert Crown to victory on both his starts to date.
Despite Kingscote only having previously ridden in The Derby once before, both Stoute and Suhail have plenty of faith in the 35-year-old rider being able to shine on the biggest stage of them all.
Stoute continued: “Richard came in, though I can’t remember who introduced him, and he started riding work twice a week and I gave him some rides and it has continued and expanded.
“He is a good rider and we like working with him. He is a talented rider who is very professional and very astute.
“He has ridden him plenty of work and won twice on him and he gets on well with him, so we will go down that route.
“The owner is happy to have him on and so am I, so we will go down that route. It doesn’t feel strange (that Ryan) is not on board as he has been doing it for years.
“He has been riding horses for Aidan in important races for a long time. That is his first port of call and he makes a big contribution here riding work and race riding when he can after Aidan’s commitments.”