Desert Crown justified the hype, crashing into favouritism for the Cazoo Derby with an authoritative three-and-a-quarter-length success under Richard Kingscote in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York on Thursday.
Desert Crown wins the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes stylishly for Sir Michael Stoute and Richard Kingscote!— York Racecourse (@yorkracecourse) May 12, 2022
By Nathaniel - as was Enable who won here at York twice - Could this horse be as good as the wondermare? ??@ABE_Dubai @RKingscote #DanteFestival #YorkRaces pic.twitter.com/L5yHqq9f7m
With ante-post favourite Luxembourg injured and few others making a deep impression in other trials, Desert Crown’s odds tumbled from 33/1 before the 2000 Guineas to 6/1 second-favourite behind Stone Age for the premier classic on June 4th on the strength of his home reputation.
Winner of a Nottingham maiden in November, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained son of Nathaniel had suffered a setback which had hampered his progress over the winter, yet on only his second start he clearly laid down a marker with a smooth success on the Knavesmire.
Sent off the 7/2 joint-favourite, Desert Crown was allowed to lob along near the back of the eight-runner field as White Wolf set a good tempo, but once produced three furlongs out he quickened up well and lengthened clear to score with ease from market rival Royal Patronage.
Despite showing his inexperience, drifting towards the stands rail, he had plenty to spare at the end of the extended 10-furlong contest.
Bookmaker reaction for Epsom was immediate, with some firms making Desert Crown the 2/1 Derby favourite. Stone Age remains the 2/1 favourite with others, with Desert Crown at 3/1.
Victory gave Stoute a seventh Dante success and he will now look to land the Derby for the sixth time.
He said: “It was a very pleasing performance because this was only race two for him and we’d only just got him ready for this race. He’s had that hold up so I was very pleased, he was smooth.
“He was impressive in his maiden and we got behind schedule so we had to do what we did and he didn’t let me down – he surprised me actually.
“His temperament isn’t a problem and he’s a very relaxed horse. The Dante is a good trial, it’s the best. I’d be very hopeful that the extra two furlongs at Epsom wouldn’t be a problem.
“I would think others in the race would improve too, but we’ll expect some improvement from him because this is only his second start on a racecourse.
“I would think other than Workforce all of my other Dante winners would have had a previous race coming into it, so that’s really encouraging.”
And when quizzed about his feelings on having the new favourite for the Derby, he quipped: “I was excited watching the race but now I’ve calmed! It’s a big thrill and it’s good for all the staff, we’re a team.”
Winning jockey Richard Kingscote has had just one ride in the Derby previously, when 11th of 12 on the Harry Dunlop-trained Knight To Behold in 2018, and he expressed his delight in the aftermath at what he had seen from Desert Crown.
He said: “He was very relaxed and going a nice rhythm and he moved well in the straight, so he did everything that I asked of him and I’m very pleased.
“It’s still early days for him but after a performance like that you’d hope it could be exciting for him.
“Stone Age was very impressive and quickened away and if he were to go to a Derby it’s always going to be very difficult, but I’ll leave that to Sir Michael.
“They’re all individuals and sometimes you think one will improve a lot and if they’re honest they often don’t improve quite as much as you’d think, but he’s done well from two to three. I sat on him last week and I was taken with how much he’d filled out so they’ve done a good job with him.
“I’m in a very privileged position to be able to work under Sir Michael and Ryan (Moore) and I’ve been very lucky that Ryan had one in the race and people are trustworthy to let me on. I’m very pleased.
“He’s very relaxed and he’s doing everything we could have hoped. He’s answered quite a few questions today and he’s done it in a likeable manner.”
Desert Crown races in the colours of Saeed Suhail, who owned the 2003 Derby winner Kris Kin – who was also trained by Stoute. The colt was bred by Strawberry Fields Stud, based just at Teversham just outside Newmarket. He was sold for 280,000gns as a yearling at Tattersalls in October 2020.