Cricket-loving Michael Stoute, who could train his sixth Epsom Derby winner with Desert Crown on Saturday, is a “Test match rather than a T20 player” in that he likes to be patient with his horses, his close friend Michael Holding told AFP.
At 76 years of age Stoute is not about to alter a formula that has worked so well for him even if owners like most of us want “instant gratification”, added the West Indies cricket icon.
Barbados-born Stoute would be a most apposite winner of this year’s race with it named in honour of nine-time winning jockey Lester Piggott, who died on Sunday, and on noted turfiste Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.
Indeed Stoute — who used to cycle as a nipper to the Barbados cricket ground to watch the likes of Len Hutton’s England and Keith Miller’s Australia play — memorably trained the Queen’s Estimate to win the 2013 Ascot Gold Cup.
The 96-year-old monarch like Desert Crown’s owner Saeed Suhail has remained loyal to Stoute, whose third Derby winner Kris Kin in 2003 carried Suhail’s colours.
Holding says if you want a speedy result don’t go to the son of Barbados’s former Chief of Police.
“The world sadly is changing,” Holding told AFP by phone from his home in the Cayman Islands.
“People want immediate success like they want to watch the T20 more than Test cricket.
“Michael is a patient man who allows the horses to develop, they show him when they are ready.
“I do not think any trainer has had as much success with older horses.
“He has seen the trend but he is not going to change. After all he has been successful for decades.
“He is a Test match player he is not a T20 player.”
Holding fell in love with racing as a schoolboy in Jamaica and chuckles at his nickname ‘Tempus’ after a racehorse “who was not very good”.
His friendship with Stoute began in 1985, four years after the trainer had opened his Derby account with the brilliant but ill-fated Shergar.
Playing county cricket for Derbyshire he was invited down by a mutual friend to Stoute’s Newmarket stables.
“He loves cricket, especially West Indies cricket.
“I feel like I am part of the yard now but funnily enough we chat about cricket when we are in the car going to the gallops.”
– ‘A modest man’ –
The 67-year-old said Stoute is a very different person off the track than on it.
“Michael has never been a great communicator,” said Holding, who contrary to his schooldays nickname earned the rather more intimidating monniker ‘Whispering Death’ when he spearheaded the West Indies pace attack in the mid 1970’s to late 80’s.
“He can be relaxed for dinner at his place, going on very relaxed, and talk his head off.
“But then the people he has there are people he knows and respects and he can say whatever and it will go no further.
“Even sometimes he reverts back to his Bajan twang…which he certainly would not want to do in front of journalists.”
Holding — who misses the morning gallops more than cricket now he has retired from commentating on the latter — says despite his success over five decades Stoute has like his late great rival Henry Cecil never allowed it to go to his head.
“That’s his nature. Henry Cecil was a modest man as well.
“I thought they must be enemies but no such thing they would have brief chats on the Newmarket training gallops as they rode their hacks.
“They respected each other.”
Holding says a measure of the man and his drive and love of the sport is how he carried on even when his long time partner Coral died in 2020.
“Everybody is saying is he going to pack up?” said Holding.
“I said to myself ‘pack up and do what? Sit in the house and watch TV and read the paper’..that is not his style or life.
“Desert Crown could possibly win the Derby and that would show people yes he is no longer a spring chicken but he has not lost his talent.
“He has put so much time and effort in training he ain’t going to lose it like that.”
Stoute’s colt is a short-priced favourite on the strength of his performance in the Dante Stakes trial at York on only his second racecourse start.
pi / nr