Dante date for Royal Patronage ahead of Cazoo Derby

Royal Patronage could bid to reignite the Derby dreams of his connections in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York next week.

Trained by Mark and Charlie Johnston, the Wootton Bassett colt won three times as a juvenile last season, including a narrow verdict over Saturday’s 2000 Guineas hero Coroebus in the Royal Lodge at Newmarket.

Royal Patronage renewed rivalry with Coroebus in the season’s first Classic, but after setting a fierce gallop for much of the way, he gave way late on and passed the post in eighth place.

Harry Herbert, managing director for owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, said: “Sadly he went way too quick. The fractions were crazy for him and he was never going to get home with those fractions.

“Thankfully he’s come back all right and he’s obviously very fresh. He virtually anticipated the gates opening and it was very hard for Jason (Hart) after that.

“He still ran very well and proved he has trained on, but it was absolutely not what we wanted to happen. We wanted him to travel with horses in front of him and finish his race off, not the other way round.”

The Derby was always viewed as Royal Patronage’s chief target and Herbert is hoping he can get his season back on track on the Knavesmire.

He added: “I would say it would be very likely he will run in the Dante and we’ll see if we can get it right because he’s a very talented colt and we need to find out more with regards to the Derby.

“The Dante does come up quick, I totally appreciate that, but the horse is in very good hands and speaking to Charlie Johnston we’re both singing off the same hymn sheet, but it’s entirely their call as regards the well-being of the horse.”

Royal Patronage is one of two potential Derby runners for the Highclere team along with the William Haggas-trained Lysander.

Third on his only start at two at Newbury in the autumn, the son of New Approach opened his account in some style on his reappearance at Newcastle last week.

He holds an entry in this weekend’s Lingfield Derby Trial and will either test his Derby credentials there or in the Cocked Hat at Goodwood later in the month.

“He’ll either go to Lingfield or wait for the Cocked Hat. It’s completely William’s call and it depends which way round William wants to do it,” said Herbert.

“Do you run back quick after his very impressive race at Newcastle, or give him more time and run in the Cocked Hat? And let’s say he won at Goodwood, well then he’s still got two weeks until the Derby.”

He added: “We’re very excited about him. This horse has worked exceptionally well at home, he’s the most beautiful individual and has a wonderful pedigree.

“He’s got ticks in a lot of the right boxes and both Tom Marquand and Michael Hills have ridden him at home and been very impressed with him.

“He’s turned a few heads, so we’ll see. It’s a fair way to go from winning a novice at Newcastle to lining up in a Derby, but at the moment that’s the plan.”

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