Desert Crown in top shape after Derby heroics

The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Desert Crown excelled on the Epsom Downs on Saturday when striding to a two-and-a-half-length victory under Richard Kingscote, having started as the 5-2 favourite for the famous Classic event – run this year in memory of Lester Piggott.

Now undefeated in three runs, the son of Nathaniel added the Derby to his impressive Dante win at York and his bloodless debut success at Nottingham in November.

Proven to be short of neither speed nor stamina, the bay now has any number of options for his next outing and Bruce Raymond, racing manage to owner Saeed Suhail, says the decision will ultimately be made by Stoute, who was winning the great race for the sixth time.

“He’s fine, he’s come back and eaten up and everything’s OK with him. It’s all good,” Raymond said on Sunday.

“As for plans, it’s a bit too early, Michael will work on that. He’s not in the Irish Derby, but I’m sure he can come back to 10 furlongs – 10 or 12 furlongs, it’s irrelevant really, he might get quicker with the more experience he gets.

“If you can go round Epsom, you can go round anywhere, can’t you?”

Raymond had great faith in Desert Crown ahead of the contest and retained that feeling right the way through as the horse put the race to bed with three furlongs left to travel and was ultimately unchallenged when crossing the line.

“I was pretty confident going into the race, I was as confident as you could be,” he said.

“I just thought he was the best horse going into the race, he had a good draw, he’s not a complicated horse.

“As long as he comes out of the gates OK, you can sit anywhere with him, third, sixth, whatever, he’s a horse that can pick them up with his speed.

“You saw at York, he has a good turn of foot and he’d excel over 12 furlongs. I thought he was the winner three (furlongs) down, as soon as he picked up he was the winner.

“I thought he was by far the best horse in the race going into it and it was proved, I don’t think there was any real excuses for any of them other than maybe the third (Westover) should have been second.”

Raymond was delighted in equal measure for both Stoute and Kingscote, the former rising to the top again after a testing spell and the latter riding in the Derby for only the second time.

Of Stoute – who first won the Derby in 1981 with the mighty Shergar – he said: “It’s a big boost for him, not that he’s ever shown that he needed it. Everybody’s probably more delighted for him than he is for himself.”

He added of Kingscote: “He was pretty humble and was saying that he’d done well to stay on the horse (keep the ride), but I don’t think there was any ever question of him coming off it.

“I think he was very mature when he won at York, after the race everyone was very excited about him being a Derby horse and all he said to Michael was, ‘I was very impressed with him in the last half-furlong, the way he picked up and got racing’.

“I thought that was a very mature thing to say for somebody who is 30-odd, he didn’t get too excited about it, that was a good thing to say to Michael Stoute.”

Desert Crown was noted to have sweated prior to the race along with several other horses, but Raymond pointed out that he only began to heat up in the final moments before being loaded – though he did not directly attribute that to the fireworks shooting from the top of the grandstand as the horses circled at the start.

“He was one that started to sweat late, quite a lot of other horse were sweating down there as they would do, it’s a long way down to the start, but he was very cool and calm until the stall handlers got hold of him,” he said.

“He was just sweating a bit then but it wasn’t dripping down his neck, just on his belly a bit.

“I don’t know whether that was the fireworks or not, that was a bit of a silly thing, but he’s a very cool customer anyway.

“When he were saddling him he was just so easy, he doesn’t jig about, he’s nice and calm.”

The racecourse attracted plenty of comment on social media for the decision to set off the fireworks, albeit the Derby start is half a mile as the crow flies away from the Duchess Stand where the display took place.

A spokesperson for the event said: “The Derby is the greatest Flat race in the world and we will always aim to create a special atmosphere.

“The pre-race show was thoroughly tested in advance and both timed and placed with our participants in mind.

“However, part of constantly striving to improve any major event is to evaluate and we will take all feedback on board in our planning process for next year.”