Strawberry Fields Forever


The Strawberry Fields Stud-bred Desert Crown wins the Derby | PA Media


“The Derby is a different game,” breeder Gary Robinson told TDN's Alayna Cullen on camera last week, and he now knows that for sure, for his Strawberry Fields Stud just outside Newmarket can proudly boast of being the birthplace of the Derby winner Desert Crown (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}).

While most of Robinson's team from the farm travelled to Epsom to watch their graduate's crowning moment, the stud owner himself took a leaf out of The Queen's book and watched the race at home from the comfort of his own sofa.

As the horse's trainer Sir Michael Stoute received three cheers from the Epsom crowd so delighted to see him back in the winner's circle he first visited on Derby day with Shergar (GB) 41 years ago, Robinson said via telephone, “I'm going to the pub now to tell everyone I don't do handicaps.”

He added, “I stayed at home with my daughter and her partner and it was just so exciting to watch. I wasn't a bit nervous, I have nerves of steel.”

The breeder said that he had believed in the horse from the start, and indeed he had employed a bold marketing approach when offering Desert Crown during Book 2 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale, with an advert including the strapline, “A future Classic winner?”

It worked, as Richard Brown of Blandford Bloodstock went to 280,000gns to purchase the half-brother to Hong Kong Group 3 winner Flying Thunder (GB) (Archipenko) for owner Saeed Suhail.

Robinson can now remove that question mark, with Desert Crown having freewheeled around Tattenham Corner and down the hill to a sixth Derby success for Stoute and a second for Suhail, who also owned the 2004 winner Kris Kin (Kris S.), as well as 2000 Guineas winner King's Best (Kingmambo).

“When I sold him I said to people, 'do yourself a favour and buy something for the weekend'. I always knew he was going to be a Classic winner,” Robinson said with a laugh. “But joking apart he was a lovely horse and he went to a fantastic stable.”

Desert Crown's Juddmonte-bred granddam Foreign Language (Distant View) is a half-sister to Binche (GB) (Woodman), whose four stakes-winning offspring for Prince Khalid Abdullah include the Group 1 winners Proviso (GB) (Dansili {GB}) and Byword (GB) (Peintre Celebre).

“We're not breeding sprinters, we've gone for Classic types if we can,” Robinson added. “We're in to the end.”

Those are words that Julian Dollar of Newsells Park Stud would doubtless be pleased to hear more often from breeders of varying sizes, and indeed Robinson has returned to that particular well twice, as Desert Crown's dam Desert Berry (GB) (Green Desert) has a full-brother to the Derby winner at foot and is now back in foal to him. The well-bred Nathaniel, a Group 1 winner at 10 and 12 furlongs and one of the stud's three resident stallions, has had dwindling support from Flat breeders despite producing one of the standout performers of the modern era, Enable (GB), from his first crop. The 14-year-old son of Galileo (Ire) has been busy this season but an increasing number of mares sent to him in Royston are from the National Hunt sector.

“I feel a bit of vindication,” said Dollar as he left Epsom on Saturday. “People have started to doubt him and that has made me question if we can stand him at Newsells Park Stud as he is not fashionable enough.”

He continued, “The owner/breeders who should be supporting him have not been supporting him as much, but he has proven himself over and over again. He's had Enable, and now this horse, who looks seriously exciting, but it's not just them, he's had a French Oaks winner and plenty of other good horses.

“I can't change things and we all know how the market is but it does frustrate me when some horses get so hyped and Nathaniel doesn't get the respect he deserves. But we are governed by the market, and that is just the way it is.”

Prior to Saturday, Nathaniel's five other Group/Grade 1 winners were all fillies: the Classic winners Enable and Channel (Ire), along with last season's Nassau S. victrix Lady Bowthorpe (GB), God Given (GB), and the former French-trained Mutamakina (GB), who won the EP Taylor S. at Woodbine.

Dollar added, “A day like today makes me feel like it's a bit of a two fingers up to the market and to the sales houses who won't take a Nathaniel. I'm overwhelmingly proud of him and it is my privilege to work alongside him. He has three mares left to cover today, and another three tomorrow, and probably three the day after that given the type of mares he is covering these days.

“This is a fantastic day for the breeders. I saw the team from Strawberry Field Stud and had a glass of champagne with them. They are all delighted and so they should be. It's what we all still want to do, to breed a Derby winner.”

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