Horse Racing
A race to be champion as Aidan O’Brien’s Stone Age takes on Sir Michael Stoute’s Desert Crown in Derby Stakes

03/06/2022 16:53

The “King of the Derby”, Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien goes for his ninth G1 Derby Stakes (2405m) success with Stone Age, who faces five-time Derby-winning trainer Sir Michael Stoute and likely race favourite, Desert Crown.

The distinguished pair knows exactly what is required to win Britain’s premier Classic and the contest between Stone Age and Desert Crown promises to be fascinating.

Stone Age, ridden by dual Derby-winning jockey Ryan Moore, showed his potential when dominating a Derby trial over 2000 metres at Leopardstown last month.

O’Brien said: “We have always thought the world of him, always been delighted with him. He did very well over the winter and the plan was always to go to the Derby.”

Success at Leopardstown was no surprise but still satisfying. “I was very happy,” O’Brien continued, “and so was Ryan Moore, very impressed. Stone Age has a high cruising speed, he relaxes and in his races has always run on through the winning line, which is a good sign.”

There are no doubts about Stone Age’s ability to stay the testing trip although the big colt has to show that he can cope with Epsom’s undulating track.

While O’Brien’s candidate has plenty of experience, Stoute’s potential champion has run only twice, fewer times than any of the trainer’s previous Derby runners.

A training setback prevented Stoute from giving Desert Crown another preparation race but the colt’s impressive victory in the G2 Dante Stakes (2051m) at York last month has him in line as the race’s favourite to win. 

Stoute said: “I wasn’t confident at York because I felt he was only just ready to run. You couldn’t fault his performance and if you win the Dante, I don’t think you have to improve much more.”

Richard Kingscote, Desert Crown’s rider, is having only his second ride in the Derby, although he has plenty of experience of riding at the track.

It is not a two-horse race and Nations Pride, whose owners Godolphin paid £75,000 (approx. HK$738,335) to enter the contest late on, could spoil the favourite’s party.

Godolphin’s representative has improved rapidly, making it four wins in a row when striding away in a Listed race over 2000m at Newmarket in April. Trainer Charlie Appleby said: “Nations Pride’s got the right profile for the race. It’s beneficial to have experience and he’s got five races under his belt. He’s a neat, well balanced horse and, although on his pedigree you could question whether he’ll have the stamina for the trip, I believe that 2405m is going to suit him.”

Several of O’Brien’s successes in the Derby were not with the shortest priced of his runners and Changingoftheguard and Star Of India also give him chances. The former is an improving horse already proven over the Derby distance.

Then there is Piz Badile, ridden by the race fans’ favourite jockey Frankie Dettori, and a battling winner in a G3 at Leopardstown two months ago.

It will be an exciting contest.