Sir Michael Stoute claimed his seventh victory in the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York on Thursday with Desert Crown producing a silky smooth performance and propelling himself to the summit of the ante-post market for the Epsom Derby next month. An impressive winner at Nottingham last Autumn on his only start as a juvenile, he had been held up by a minor setback during the spring (as stated in Ahead On The Flat). However, even though he was reportedly only 80% ready for his return to action, the Saeed Suhail owned colt proved too good for his seven opponents stretching away for a three and a quarter lengths win. Held up early on Richard Kingscote, he gradually crept into contention before being pulled out by his rider. Quickening away, he left the Group 2 winner Royal Patronage trailing in his wake looking a high-class three year old in the making. There must be every chance Desert Crown will provided the veteran Newmarket trainer with his sixth win in Flat racing's Blue Riband - he has speed and stamina in equal amounts and looks very good indeed.
Dual winner Magisterial was a big disappointment finishing last of eight. Weak in the market, the vibes beforehand weren't strong and he was outclassed. Frankie Dettori tried to coax him into contention entering the final three furlongs but the response was limited and he was soon beaten. Rated 99, he isn't going to be an easy horse to place and perhaps a drop into handicap company at Royal Ascot could be on the agenda.
Earlier on the card, William Haggas and Tim Easterby pointed readers of Ahead On The Flat in the right direction. On page 86, the former indicated that the Group 2 Middleton Stakes was the target for Lilac Road (15/2) and the daughter of Mastercraftsman duly collected under a fine waiting ride by Tom Marquand. Cruyff Turn (8/1) won four times last season, including the valuable Clipper Logistics Handicap at York's Ebor Festival in August. Tim Easterby suggested on page 73 that the five year old would return to the Knavesmire for the Hambleton Stakes and he took advantage of a decent draw to win by a head from the fast finishing Brunch. Expect to see the gelded son of Dutch Art return to the track later this summer.
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