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Remarkable week of racing at Epsom

By: Rolf Johnson   June 7 , 2022

The Queen couldn`t attend the Derby, so one of her knights took the honours.

For the sixth time Sir Michael Stoute left Epsom after landing the world`s greatest horserace, returning to Freemason Lodge, Newmarket with the unbeaten Desert Crown and the Derby trophy.

The race was officially titled “In Memory of Lester Piggott” the nine-time Derby-winning peerless jockey who died the week before. Lester – one of those scarce athletes, human beings even – Pele, Ali, Tiger – recognised by a single name.

The absences of Her Majesty and Piggott were keenly felt but the 243rd running of the Derby was memorable for the smashing performance of the Stoute-trained winner Desert Crown.

Sir Michael, 76, has been champion trainer ten times. Even with this victory it is unlikely there will be an eleventh – but that`s not to say there aren`t great days to look forward to, not least with this flagship colt.

The record, the 41st Classic to be won by a trainer, was established by Aidan O`Brien the previous day, with Tuesday in the Oaks. It is forty-one years since Sir Michael won his first Derby, with the immortal (we`ll never know his fate) Shergar. An aside: Shergar was followed home by Glint of Gold trained by Ian Balding. This year`s Derby runner up Hoo Ya Mal was trained by Ian`s son Andrew.

When the inevitable questions for a comparison between the two were voiced at the post-race Press conference, the great man batted them away as if in the nets practising for his other great sporting love - cricket. The ten-time champion trainer concedes nothing to the modern clamour for off the cuff one-liners to make headlines for stories without substance. All the best cricketers have treated every ball on its merits – those who wrote him off because he hadn`t saddled a Derby winner for a decade and not even a runner over the past few years, were now begging at Sir Michael`s table for scraps of knowledge of Desert Crown`s future.

“We`ll take him home and see how he is,” said the master of understatement.

The question of the trainer`s own future was beautifully dealt with. “We`ve been here (Newmarket) since 1968 and as time goes by chances lessen but I do not dwell on such matters.”

Desert Crown did not race until the final week of his first season and the Derby was but his third public outing.

“He has a great mind, he has the speed to drop back to ten furlongs, no, he has not blown everyone away on the gallops.”

And Sir Michael concluded with: “It will take a few days to plot a course. He isn`t Shergar but he could be en route.”

Shergar was a ten-length Derby winner, four times the distance that Desert Crown put between himself and his runner-up: but that superiority could have been emphasized far more greatly had Desert Crown`s jockey Richard Kingscote so wished.

If the post-race conference was a memorable (in more senses than one) occasion for the great trainer, for Kingscote, 35, and a self-confessed motorbike maniac but with one previous slow motion Derby ride on his CV, it was an emotional moment.

Desert Crown was favourite and Kingscote`s telling assessment was that it had been a “push button ride”.

“I`m a daydreamer” he`d said on a morning radio interview. He can stop dreaming now.

The odds of the runners in the places at 150-1, 25-1 and 100-1 didn`t diminish Desert Crown`s performance.

It is arguable that the fast-finishing third Westover would have been closer but for bad interference when beginning his challenge but Desert Crown had already torn away from his field with over a furlong to go. He was as perfectly composed as his trainer gracing the Derby winner`s circle.

Bred by Strawberry Fields Stud, not all that far from Newmarket, Desert Crown`s dam Desert Berry was a maiden winner at Lingfield. She was the new stud`s foundation mare and at thirteen had already produced a Group winner, Flying Thunder (by Archipenko), in Hong Kong.

Desert Crown is by Nathaniel who has already got one champion, the eleven-time Group One winning mare Enable. Nathaniel won a Champion Stakes and a King George and would have had a greater profile had he not raced in the era of Frankel.

Desert Crown himself was regarded as a standout in his Book Two Tattersalls Sales, bought for 280,000gns by Saeed Suhail who also owned the 2003 Derby winner Kris Kin – third of the Stoute-trained Derby winners – and the first after Sir Michael`s knighthood.

The combined forces of Coolmore and Godolphin were routed in the Derby though Nathaniel is of course by Coolmore`s all-time omnipotent stallion, the late lamented Galileo.

The Oaks had been business as usual. On her third birthday (who says late foals are disadvantaged?) Tuesday (by Galileo, inevitably) helped O`Brien break the record for number of classic winners trained by one man – not that O`Brien would ever deny his debt, and continuing reference to, the all-conquering operation led by John Magnier.

What a willing partner Tuesday was for Ryan Moore. Admittedly the favourite Emily Upjohn didn`t help herself or Frankie Dettori by stumbling out of the stalls and was on the back foot thereafter. It says much for Emily Upjohn`s fortitude that encircling the field of eleven fillies in the straight she got within a nod of Tuesday at the finish. But Tuesday was never going to surrender to anyone without a battle.

Betting next time they meet – that Emily Upjohn will reverse placings – will reflect the perception that the favourite was vastly unlucky. Emily Upjohn will be that much wiser: Tuesday will be that much older.

Hollie Doyle became the first female to be placed in a Classic on the second of the Gosden fillies, third on Nashwa.

So it was a Galileo filly from Frankel and Sea The Stars. As Aidan O`Brien was keen to emphasize at the post- race Press conference, Classics are bred into Coolmore stock and he was privileged to handle such stock.

Almost the first words reported in advance of the Classic weekend that Her Majesty was obliged to miss for only the fifth time in her reign, were those of the Archbishop of York.

Recognising the Queen`s attachment to horses and horseracing, his speech referred to her Platinum Jubilee of 70 years` service on the throne and to her being “Still in the saddle” and “Staying the course”.

Those words would equally apply to Sir Michael Stoute.

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Total Comments : 2
Posted by Ram Gupta on ( June 7 , 2022 )
What a pleasure to read a article so articulately written. Wish Indian racing was also covered with the same tone of awe and love as is evident in the writers style.
Posted by Murari Kaushik on ( June 7 , 2022 )
Rolf, thanks. It has always mystified me that there are not more "Racing Knights". (John Warren, who as you will know did receive another "gong" - but not a Knighthood - very recently, and Brough Scott, not to mention the senior Gosdens, Johnston`s and Hannons of this world, spring to mind immediately). Sir Michael was "Knighted" for services to Barbadian (?) Tourism by his Government in Bermuda, Barbados or wherever, not for services to British Racing.
"Theatre Knights" are aplenty, as are "Sporting Knights". as for "Political", "Military" "Civil Service" and "Business Knights", the less said the better.

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