Andy Oliver will make history today being the first Ulster trainer to have a runner in the Group 1 Cazoo Derby.
The Caledon-based trainer fields Glory Daze in the big race and he is quietly confident about the colt’s chances.
“He’s earned his place after finishing runner-up in the Group 3 Derby trial at Leopardstown behind the favourite Stage Age trained by Aidan O’Brien).
“The step up in trip should suit and the going appears perfect and I don’t envisage the undulations of the track being a problem. He’s a big horse and has wintered well and developed.”
The colt is owned in partnership by the trainer and breeders Tally Ho Stud under the Glory Gold Partnership and showed promise in his three efforts as a juvenile last season.
“He ran well at Navan last year but was badly hampered,” added Oliver.
All recent starts have been over 10 furlongs but the Tyrone trainer is confident the mile and a half of today’s £1.6m run in memory of the greatest ever jockey Lester Piggott who won nine renewals of the feature will pose no problems.
Oliver added: “ He’s over here and relaxed and happy. He’s been working very well and jockey Rory Whelan knows him well having partnered him in most of his races.”
And memories of great days in Epsom history will come flooding back when Desert Crown bids to give Sir Michael Stoute his sixth victory in the race.
Stoute first won the premier Classic with the legendary Shergar in 1981 and in the 41 years since has added a further four Epsom victories thanks to Shahrastani (1986), Kris Kin (2003), North Light (2004) and Workforce (2010).
Now into his 50th year in the training ranks, the Barbadian has the chance to end a 12-year barren spell in the Classics since Workforce’s Epsom triumph.
Desert Crown caught the eye in taking a five-and-a-half-length victory on debut at Nottingham last November and defied an interrupted spring when impressing in the Dante Stakes on just his second start at York.
That catapulted the son of Nathaniel to the head of the Derby betting and he will be partnered at Epsom by Richard Kingscote.
“Desert Crown is workmanlike. He is not spectacular at home. This fella has a very good mind and is a very relaxed horse, and he’s done nothing wrong on the racecourse — in fact, he’s done rather well,” said Stoute.
“He is probably the most inexperienced horse we have sent to the Derby, because he has only had two starts and I think they all had more than two.”
Stone Age leads a three-strong team for Aidan O’Brien into battle as the Ballydoyle handler chases a ninth victory in the race.
Stone Age warmed up for Epsom by winning at Leopardstown last month. O’Brien is hopeful the step up to a mile and a half will prove within the three-year-old’s compass.
He said: “Obviously a mile and a quarter is as far as he’s gone, but we’ve always thought he’d be okay over a mile and a half. Obviously you’re never sure until you try.”
Stone Age is joined by two other Derby trial winners in Changingoftheguard and Star Of India.