2022 Derby winner Desert Crown returns at Sandown as connections await decision on supplementing Passenger for Epsom

Derby Day at Epsom. (Pic: Courtesy of Great British Racing).

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EPSOM Derby contenders are sure to be at the forefront of Sir Michael Stoute’s mind with the return of last year’s winner Desert Crown and the pending decision on supplementing Passenger for the 2023 Derby.

Desert Crown has not raced since his emphatic victory at Epsom last year where he extended his unbeaten record to three wins when scoring by two and a half lengths under Richard Kingscote.

The success followed a wide-margin win in the Dante, which followed a five and a half length win in a Nottingham maiden at his sole start as a two-year-old.

The son of Nathaniel was forced to miss the remainder of last season and is set to make his long-awaited return in the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown (7.42pm) this evening.

Despite the lengthy absence, Bruce Raymond, racing manager to owner Saeed Suhail, anticipates a successful return.

“I’m more than hopeful,” Raymond said. “It would be a huge upset were he to be beaten.

“Of course, they can all be beaten, but I don’t expect him to be.

“Michael is definitely 100 per cent happy with him, he’s fine, he’s working good and while there’s enough improvement to come, he’s fit enough to do himself justice.

“He was so impressive in the Derby. The race was over two out,” Raymond said to At The Races.

The field of six runners will also include a pacemaker representing owner and trainer.

“We’ve got a pacemaker in Solid Stone to make sure it’s not a crawl,” Raymond added.

“He leads him in all his work and he didn’t run at Chester recently just so he could run in this.”

Meanwhile a decision on whether or not to stump up the £85,000 supplementary entry fee to run Passenger in this year’s Derby at Epsom on June 3 has not yet been made.

Passenger has raced twice, winning first up then dead-heating for third in the Dante after suffering trouble in running.

“I would say it is [supplementing] being considered seriously, we don’t have to make a decision until the weekend because the supplementary stage is on Monday,” said Alan Cooper, racing manager for owners the Niarchos family.

“It’s less than a week since he ran so Sir Michael quite naturally would like to wait until he has to make his recommendations.

“He only ran last Thursday and today is Wednesday. We don’t have to make a decision until Monday, so we will make one in due course. But the horse is very well.

“He’s been a very progressive horse all spring which is very encouraging. He’s going to have plenty of big-race entries and Sir Michael will decide what we are going to do.”

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