Sir Michael Stoute was celebrating his sixth Derby win on Saturday as Desert Crown ran out an emphatic and popular winner of the Epsom showpiece.
Although not executed with the wide-margin panache of Stoute’s first Derby winner Shergar, there was very much a sense that Epsom had witnessed an above-average Derby winner in Saeed Suhail’s colt, who was providing his owner with a second Derby success following Kris Kin in 2003.
Making only his third start following a successful debut at Nottingham at the back end of last year and a facile victory in the Dante Stakes at York on his reappearance, Desert Crown was very much the best on Saturday, sitting handily in the first third of the pack before striking for home two and a half furlongs out. The son of Nathaniel was always in control thereafter, ultimately crossing the line two-and-a-half lengths to the good of 150/1 outsider Hoo Ya Mal, who ran a cracker for Andrew Balding. Westover ran an eye-catching race in third, closing from the rear of the field to fill the places for Ralph Beckett, while Balding also fielded the fourth home, 66/1 shot Masekela.
Time will tell if Desert Crown can scale the brilliant heights of Shergar. But the ease with which he dispatched the 17-strong field suggested that his celebrated trainer has unearthed another real star and that further Group 1 laurels will be forthcoming throughout the year. Indeed, he was cut in some places into 2/1 for the Arc, a race Stoute in which saddled his fifth Derby winner Workforce to win in 2010.
Stoute would not be drawn into comparisons with his previous five Derby winners. Yet the quiet confidence in the horse’s ability that was so evident ahead of the Derby is understandably in full bloom, with the trainer naturally looking forward to seeing what Desert Crown can go on to achieve this season, whether it be over 10 furlongs or a mile and a half.
“Shergar was very special – this horse hasn’t quite reached that,” he said. “But there’s potential.
“We were very hopeful after York that he might win the Derby. But today’s performance enlightened me because he had it won a long way out.
“I was very happy when they got to the top of the hill to see where he was positioned. He travelled so well – he’s an athlete – and he has such a good mind on him.”
It was a momentous result for Richard Kingscote, riding in just his second Derby. However, the jockey was quick to pay tribute to the talent of his partner.
“After York, I was really quite confident,” he said. “But not having ridden a Derby winner before, I tried not to get my hopes up.
“I didn’t expect to be quite as handy as I was but he jumped beautifully and they didn’t go as hard as they looked they might on paper. Other than that, it was incredibly smooth.
“Once I got to the top of the hill, I was happy. There a moment when I thought we might be trapped three deep, which I didn’t want to be, but then I managed to get one off the fence and I was happy. He was travelling so nicely, he helped me along and gave me a good ride. When we came across the road, he changed leads and skipped away.
“As Tony McCoy once said, it’s the horses who do most of the work and I’m just very lucky to be riding him.
“He’s got a lovely character and is clearly a very good horse.”
Stoute added: “It’s a wonderful thrill. It’s just a delight to train good horses. He’s not scintillating at home but when we worked him before today [with Solid Stone], he quickened impressively. It was a professional piece of work.
“We’ll go home and see how he’s taken the race, see how his recovery is – we’ll just try and get it right. These good horses have good acceleration and he’s a good horse.”
While Desert Crown’s calendar is likely to take in an array of Group 1 events over the summer and autumn, the future for Hoo Ya Mal is less clear cut, with the Territories colt holding an entry in the upcoming Goffs London Sale on the eve of Royal Ascot. A bargain 40,000gns yearling purchase by owner Ahmad Al Sheikh and agent Federico Barberini, he is the second Derby-placed colt of the past three years for connections following the runner-up effort of Khalifa Sat in 2020.
A 280,000gns Tattersalls October Book 2 purchase by Blandford Bloodstock, Desert Crown becomes the sixth Group 1 winner for Newsells Park Stud’s Nathaniel, who is perhaps best known as the sire of Enable; this crop of three-year-olds were sired in the year following Enable’s Oaks success. His success is a real feather in the cap for the smaller breeder, having been bred by Strawberry Fields Stud in Newmarket out of Desert Berry, a winning daughter of Green Desert who is also dam of the high-class Hong Kong performer Flying Thunder. Further back, it is the fine Juddmonte family of Group 1 winners Proviso and Byword.