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Desert Crown looks destined for great things after showreel Derby triumph

The showreel of Lester Piggott’s Derby winners – played before the minute’s applause for the Classic’s greatest jockey on Saturday – was also a reminder of the days when it felt like the whole nation had turned up at Epsom to watch. Double-deckers lined up along the length of the straight, spectators a dozen deep behind the rail, and a shared sense of tradition and occasion at a 200-year-old day out at the races.

Thirty-five minutes later, there was another flashback to an earlier age as Sir Michael Stoute saddled his sixth Derby winner, 41 years after the first. There was much more breathing space on the Hill and the buses are largely a thing of the past. It was still possible, though, to imagine Desert Crown and Richard Kingscote sliding into a showreel of their own one day, having produced one of the best winning performances of recent years.

Westover would have probably beaten Hoo Ya Mal into second with a better run, but claims that he might have overhauled the winner are no more than pocket talk. Ralph Beckett’s colt was already coming under a ride as Kingscote cruised into contention aboard Desert Crown, and the instant acceleration he showed to take a decisive lead two out was the mark of a champion.

Kingscote suggested afterwards that Desert Crown had been “more push-button” than he had in the Dante Stakes at York, and his turn of foot promises to be as potent at 10 furlongs over the next few months as it was at a mile-and-a-half on Saturday. It was a performance to delight both the fans at the track – there for the first time since 2019 – and the 1.7m people watching on ITV, a 29% jump from 12 months ago.

Desert Crown is the first unbeaten Derby winner since Golden Horn, who won on his fourth start in 2015 and was also the last winning favourite. Ruler Of The World, meanwhile, was the last unbeaten winner on just his third trip to the track, in 2013. Their career paths diverged sharply after their moment of glory on the Downs, which should perhaps be borne in mind before we run away with ourselves entirely.

Golden Horn won three more Group Ones – the Eclipse, Irish Champion Stakes and the Arc – and finished second in the International Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Turf, beaten by a neck and half a length respectively. Ruler Of The World went to the Irish Derby at the Curragh, where he finished fifth of nine runners, and added just a single Group Two win to his record in seven subsequent starts at three and four.

Ruler Of The World, though, did not have the finishing kick that Desert Crown produced on Saturday. Tougher tests lie ahead for Stoute’s new stable star – not least when he tackles all-aged company later in the year. Still, it is no surprise to see him priced up as 2-1 favourite for the Arc in October and his rare ability to cruise and then quicken in a heartbeat could yet see him arrive at Longchamp with his unbeaten record still intact.

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