It was 50 years ago that Sir Michael Stoute trained his first winner. Could half a century later see Desert Crown win him his sixth Epsom Derby?
The 76-year-old last trained the winner of an English classic race 12 years ago. That was when Workplace gave him his fifth victory in the Epsom Derby. His first-ever winner was perhaps the most famous with Shergar finishing first 41 years ago.
The past five years have seen the Epsom Derby dominated by trainers Charlie Appelby and Aidan O’Brien. They’ve trained the winner on each occasion, but their domination of this race may well end on June 4.
The thought of Desert Crown being at the top of the horse racing betting market wasn’t expected at the start of May. After all, he’d only had one race and hadn’t run in the 2000 Guineas or any Derby trial. His sole race had been at Nottingham last November.
The two-year-old won his debut by five and a half lengths on soft ground. That was only a class 4 race, well below the Group 1 status of the Epsom Derby. He didn’t beat any world-beaters that day either. The second-placed horse was Schmilsson who only recently won at the fifth time of asking and that was in class 5.
It wasn’t until May 12 that Desert Crown had his second race and his first as a three-year-old. He took part in the Dante Stakes at York. That’s a Group 2 horse and a good Derby trial. Desert Crown went off as the joint +350 favorite with Royal Patronage, who finished eighth in the 2000 Guineas this year.
The chances of Desert Crown winning the race didn’t look good when a slow start was made. However, impressive headway was made and the lead was taken two furlongs out. Despite drifting to the right, Desert Crown held on for a three and a quarter length win over Royal Patronage.
That success for such an inexperienced horse soon saw a change in the Epsom Derby betting market. He’s now available at +225, not bad for a runner that was +3300 to win in April.
It’s a special year with this being the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. A win for Stoute would be special as he used to train horses owned by the monarch.
Desert Crown has a lot in his favor coming into the Epsom Derby. He’s bound to come on for the run as he’d been off the track for 190 days before winning at York. That drifting right will hopefully not occur in his third race as he gets more experienced.
One major question that is always asked in the Epsom Derby is will the horse get the distance? The Epsom Derby is run over a mile and a half. Sir Michael Stoute is confident that Desert Crown will see out the extra two furlongs.
He will face plenty of opposition at Epsom. Aidan O’Brien will run several horses and always must be feared. His shortest price runner at present is Changing The Guard. Another horse with a name that would be a suitable winner in a Platinum Jubilee year.
Three runs as a two-year-old didn’t produce any winners for this contender. He’s won both his races this year and was an impressive winner of the Group 3 Chester Vase. At odds of +900, he looks like a threat to Desert Crown.