Desert Crown in splendid isolation
Desert Crown in splendid isolation

How good were Epsom Derby and Oaks trial winners Desert Crown and Emily Upjohn at York?


Timeform's David Cleary reacts to the key Epsom trials at York this week - Wednesday's Musidora Stakes and Thursday's Dante Stakes.

Crown sets up fascinating clash with Stone

A fascinating Dante Stakes did exactly what it's designed to do, produce a candidate with excellent claims of landing the Derby at Epsom.

In a field with a mix of runners with smart form in pattern company and promising, lightly-raced sorts, it was one of the latter that came to the fore, Desert Crown.

Desert Crown, on just his second start, took apart the opposition with a bright turn of foot after travelling well under a patient ride, showing signs of greenness before drawing further away late on.

The form of a well-run race looks well up to standard for the Dante. In beating Royal Patronage by three and a half lengths, he probably ran to a similar level to Stone Age at Leopardstown at the weekend, setting up the sort of clash that makes horse racing.

Desert Crown has a pedigree of contrasts, but he clearly looks to take after his sire rather than the dam's side and the extra distance at Epsom ought not to be a problem. He's a well-made sort who handled the preliminaries well, which augurs well for the hullabaloo of Derby day.

Royal Patronage ran a good race, the first test for the Two Thousand Guineas form and one which suggests that will prove the above-average classic it looked at the time. He may well take his chance at Epsom, but will do well to make the frame. Bluegrass took third, staying on, his pedigree suggesting a mix of stamina and speed, but in practice the latter almost entirely absent; the St Leger surely the aim with him.

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Emily looks too short for Oaks glory

Bookmaker reaction to Emily Upjohn's success in the Musidora Stakes at York was unanimous – having been alongside Tuesday at the head of the Oaks betting pre-race, Emily Upjohn was shortened to a pretty general 11/8 clear market leader after her five-length success.

There was no doubt about the authority of her win and her potential to improve further when she steps up to a mile and a half, whether she should be that short is another matter.

Emily Upjohn, who had won both her previous starts, had shown a significantly higher level of form than any of her four rivals, even if two of those were unbeaten. She needed to be shaken up to assert with two furlongs to go, but the further she went the better she was, looking to have a fair bit left at the line.

However, she probably didn't have to run much above the level of her Sandown win last time.

Her closest rivals in the ante-post lists, Tuesday or With The Moonlight, ran at least as well at the Guineas meeting. The latter won the Pretty Polly at Newmarket with a similar authority and is every bit as likely to improve further when stepped up to the full Oaks distance.

At the prices available, With The Moonlight rather than Emily Upjohn looks the bet in the Oaks at this stage.

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