Talking points from the Derby as Desert Crown dominates

As the Derby Festival got into full swing, even the rain lashing down couldn’t dampen spirits on an overcast afternoon at Epsom despite the Queen’s absence. A weekend of celebration wouldn’t be overshadowed by the difficult conditions, as the Platinum Jubilee culminated with the Derby — one that had a full crowd in attendance for the first time since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The horse betting odds had nailed their colours to the mast in terms of picking a favourite, as Desert Crown recorded victory in the one mile, four-furlong race. There was plenty of entertainment to dissect, so read on as we look at some of the main talking points from the Derby at Epsom.

Sir Michael Stoute does it again

Once again Sir Michael Stoute has trained a winning horse in the Derby. The Barbadian-British trainer is a stalwart in the world of flat racing and ensured a fifth victory with Desert Crown, whose no-nonsense run as the 5/2 favourite was one that will live long in the memory.

Having won the Dante Stakes at York, there was a lot of anticipation building over his next race, and he made sure not to disappoint, leaving the rest of the chasing pack in his wake 40 years on from Stoute’s first Derby victory with Shergar from the same champion yard.

The 76-year-old has found a new jewel for his crown and was complimentary towards the three-year-old who will likely run in the Group Two King Edward VII Stakes later this month.

“We were very hopeful after York that he might win the Derby,” Stoute said, “but the performance delighted me, because he had it won a long way out.

“He’s got such a good mind to go with his ability. At an early stage [of his career] he was having little niggles and that’s why he didn’t run until the back end of last year. It was nothing serious, but he was maturing and developing.

“I was very happy with his position when he got to the top of the hill, he travelled, he’s a good athlete and he floated down the hill.”

Hoo Ya Mal almost causes an upset

Even though flat racing might lack the unpredictability of the jumps season, there is always room for a shock upset. Just looking at some of the upsets from last year, it was impossible to rule the impossible out, and for a brief moment it looked like Hoo Ya Mal would write his name in the history books.

The Andrew Balding-trained horse was a 150/1 outsider with just the one victory in a York maiden last August to his name; however, alongside jockey David Probert, who put in an excellent performance himself, the pair chased Desert Crown to the end, showing the consistency he lacked when beaten by a good 10 lengths at Newmarket by Nations Pride in the Derby build up.

Stone Age disappoints

With so much expectation coming into the Derby, Aidan O’Brien’s Stone Age was being touted as one of the favourites after his impressive win in the Derby Trial at Leopardstown, emerging as a 3/1 frontrunner at times. In Luxembourg’s absence, Stone Age was O’Brien’s best chance at victory, but flattered to deceive with an underwhelming sixth-place finish.

He started brightly but weakened one furlong out, eventually slipping behind Westover and Masekela, unable to maintain a real push on stablemate Changingoftheguard even when coming inside for the final 100 yards. It was a frustrating end to the Festival for O’Brien, who won the Oaks on day one but was hoping for a ninth Derby win.

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