Desert Crown emerged as the new Epsom Derby favourite with an impressive victory in the Dante Stakes on just his second start at York on Thursday.
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained runner stepped forward significantly from his comfortable debut win in the key Derby trial, and gave his trainer a record-equalling seventh victory in the race.
He quickened powerfully in the closing stages to defeat Royal Patronage by three and a quarter lengths and put himself at the top of the Classic market. He is now a 2/1 chance for Derby glory, moving clear of the Aidan O'Brien-trained Stone Age at 3/1 and 15/2 shot Changingoftheguard.
Stoute, who has won the Derby five times including with Shergar in 1981, believes there should be even more to come from Desert Crown.
"I was very pleased," Stoute said after the Dante. "I was cautious because he had the hold-up and he's only just up for a race now. He was impressive in his maiden and we got behind schedule. We had to do what we did and he didn't let me down, he surprised me actually. That was very encouraging.
"Others in the race will improve too, but you would expect some improvement from him because it's only his second start. It was a very pleasing performance because this was only race two for him and we just got him ready."
Stoute last won the Derby in 2010 with Workforce but has only had three runners in the iconic Flat race since.
Carlton House, who was second in 2011, is the closest he got. Desert Crown's jockey Richard Kingscote has never won a domestic Classic race.