In a year in which Her Majesty made history by celebrating her Platinum Jubilee on the throne, a horse with a regal name is also on course to secure a stunning landmark of his own… with Ascot, in July, the setting for a potential slice of racing folklore.
Only a handful of horses have won the Epsom Derby and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in the same season, but that’s exactly what Desert Crown will look to achieve – intriguingly, he has been made a comfortable favourite to do exactly that in the horse racing odds at 13/8.
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained three-year-old will feature prominently in many pundits’ tips on horse racing for the meeting, you suspect, so can Desert Crown join an illustrious group of elite racehorses that have achieved this unique double?
It’s perhaps not always appreciated by Londoners just how many fantastic options they have to enjoy a day at the races in and around the capital.
Kempton Park and Sandown, both in Surrey, play host to a number of prestigious races and festivals each year, while Windsor Racecourse sits on the bank of the Thames in Berkshire.
#throwback to 1991, when The Queen won £16 at the Epsom Derby after the horse she had placed a bet on came first in the race. 🐎
The Queen seemed delighted with the win, as she could be seen running and cheering. The horse was called Generous. pic.twitter.com/gSIhPbFcoi
— The Crown Chronicles (@crownchronicles) June 16, 2022
Perhaps the most famous racecourse in close proximity to London is Ascot, which of course plays host to Royal Ascot each summer and an array of other meetings throughout the year.
July’s King George meeting is amongst the standouts of the flat racing season, and who knows you might even catch a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth II having a flutter on the race that bears her name or her parents’.
In Good Company
It’s a small but perfectly-formed group that has won the Derby and King George double in the same season, starting with the legendary Nijinsky back in 1970.
His stellar three-year-old campaign also saw him prevail in the 2,000 Guineas and Irish Derby, and in winning the St Leger later that summer Nijinsky became the fifteenth – but still most recent – inductee into the UK Triple Crown champions club.
What horse in recent years is closest to 1970s star Nijinsky? pic.twitter.com/XjoaGLC3AH
— Ascot Racecourse (@Ascot) July 7, 2021
Charles Engelhard Jr’s horse would later go to stud, with his list of progeny including Epsom Derby champion Golden Fleece and Shahrastani and King George victor Ile de Bourbon.
You wait an eternity for Derby-King George double winners to come along, and then two strike in successive years! In 1971, the outstanding Mill Reef replicated Nijinsky’s feat, backing up a stellar two-year-old campaign to win both of the prestigious renewals as well as the Eclipse Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Like Nijinsky, Mill Reef was out to work as a stallion when his racing career was over, and remarkably he produced a direct descendant that would also claim the Derby-King George double. Reference Point, one of Henry Cecil’s most successful horses, also won the St Leger, Dante Stakes and Great Voltigeur Stakes in 1987 to cap one of the finest single seasons in memory.
Some of the other horses to complete the Derby-King George double are synonymous with racing’s hall of fame. Shergar, the champion who would later be kidnapped and held to a £2 million ransom, won the big two and the Irish Derby in a glorious 1981 season.
And who can forget Galileo, who completed the double and added the Irish Derby for good measure in 2001. Latterly sent to stud, the horse now boasts the record at five for the most Epsom Derby winners sired.
All things considered, Desert Crown has great expectations to live up to…