Saturday: Cazoo Derby, Epsom
When the 2022 Derby was named in honour of Lester Piggott we craved a great winner to complement the greatest jockey. We got one too, as the unbeaten Desert Crown sprinkled stardust on the famous Downs to give Sir Michael Stoute a sixth victory in the most coveted Classic of them all.
It was utterly emphatic, definitely more decisive than the two-and-a-half-length winning margin suggested, as the unbeaten son of Nathaniel quickened right away from a Derby field that was supposed to be well up to scratch beforehand.
Twelve years had passed since Stoute's last Derby winner and we began to wonder whether Workforce might have been his final one. But, when Desert Crown belied his inexperience to win a competitive-looking Dante at York last month, he teased us into thinking the legendary 76-year-old might just have found another one.
2022 Cazoo Derby at Epsom: where your horse finished
Still, there was that nagging doubt in the back of our minds that inexperience might catch him out on the biggest stage of all after having just two starts. We need not have worried. He answered every single question asked of him and, boy, did we enjoy listening to those answers.
"We were very hopeful after York that he might win the Derby. But, you know, the performance delighted me because he had won a long way out. He's got such a good mind," Stoute said afterwards.
A good mind plus a good engine equals a very good colt. Perhaps even a great one, but only time will tell whether he will go on to be as good as some of Stoute's previous winners like Shahrastani, and dare we even say Shergar.
Stoute said of the performance: "I was very happy with where he was positioned when he got to the top of the hill. He's a good athlete and he floated down the hill. It's a wonderful thrill. They all are [the Derby wins]. It's just a delight to train good horses and fortunately we've came across another good one.
"At an early stage he was having little niggles and that's why he didn't run until the back-end last year. It was nothing serious, but he was maturing and developing."
Desert Crown has developed into something very special indeed.
When asked whether he thought his prospects of winning a sixth Derby might have evaporated, Stoute replied: "I didn't know. Well, you realise as time goes on that your chances lessen. I didn't sit down and think about it year after year, but it has been a lot of years, hasn't it?"
Richard Kingscote, whom Stoute instilled so much faith in, was the coolest customer in the whole place. He had won the Derby, but you would think two Mars bars had come out of a vending machine instead of just the one he had paid for. He looked born for a big day like this one.
The winning jockey said: "People think you have to do something spectacular but, I think at the end of the day and as Mr McCoy always says, the horse does most of the work and I'm just fortunate enough to be sat aboard him.
2022 Cazoo Derby: full result and replay
Stoute's record now ranks alongside the great Derby trainers, not only in terms of winning the race six times but with the dominant performances of some of his Epsom heroes, going back to the great Shergar who took the race apart in 1981.
"It took a lot of guts from Sir Michael and the owner to stick with me, in a Derby, so I'm very grateful to them for supporting me and letting me ride a very good horse.
"I'm not a champion jockey. I'm not Ryan Moore. I've had a good career, but I've not had a starlit career. I think it takes a lot for them to not look elsewhere."
Kingscote deflected all of the praise on to Desert Crown, saying: "He was a bit more push button today than he was in the Dante. He was more alert through the race. Everything I asked of him I got straight away. At York, it just took me a little while to wind him up. Today he was much more alert. He does have gears.
"Every time I've sat on him he's been very calm and today was no exception. I couldn't fault him at all. He went to the start and the fireworks went off, but he was fine. He was a lovely ride.
"I got goosebumps pulling up, when you realise [you’ve won the Derby], but at the two-pole it was all over. I think it’s nice that my kids were able to come. I was a bit nervous about them coming because it changes my routine, but my wife wanted to be here and I’m glad they all were."
The winner didn't surprise us, but the second and third certainly did as 150-1 shot Hoo Ya Mal was second and Westover was third at 25-1. The front-running Changingoftheguard did best of the Ballydoyle brigade in fifth, but this was a Derby that didn't belong to Aidan O’Brien, but Stoute instead.
The greatest of occasions was complemented by a great winner.
Desert Crown can be rated a superior Derby winner after his comfortable success at Epsom, improving to a Racing Post Rating of 124+ that hasn't been bettered in the race since Golden Horn in 2015.
He looked like winning further when moving easily to lead, perhaps something similar to the four and a half lengths by which Adayar won last year, and rates upsides the subsequent King George winner among the best recent Derby winners.
Most Derby winners improve on their Epsom figures in subsequent starts and it would come as a surprise were Desert Crown not to do so.
The form has a bit to prove with surprise runner-up Hoo Ya Mal leaving all previous achievements behind. But with a big gap to fourth, Hoo Ya Mal can be rated as improving in line with the race standard of 117 for the Derby third, the position he would have filled had the strong staying Westover (119+) enjoyed a clearer run.
Paul Curtis, handicapper
Read more from Derby day at Epsom:
Did we see a superstar in the Derby? Racing Post experts' view
Richard Kingscote: 'It's surreal - lots of good jockeys don't ride in the Derby let alone win it'
'I didn’t know why he was that price' - owner proud of 150-1 Derby runner-up
'He's a huge talent - it's frustrating' - Rob Hornby on the luckless Westover
2022 Cazoo Derby at Epsom: where your horse finished
High drama in Epsom opener as William Buick struck in head by rival horse
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