John Gosden is taking nothing for granted as Palace Pier bids to double his Royal Ascot tally and justify short odds in the Queen Anne Stakes.
The Kingman colt burst on to the Group One scene with a thrilling victory in the St James’s Palace Stakes 12 months ago, before then making it two top-level victories in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.
He lost his unbeaten record when only third in the QEII at Ascot in October, but has bounced back with successive wins this spring – most recently dominating his rivals in the Lockinge at Newbury.
“He did everything right last year until the end when he ran on very heavy ground, hated it, lost a shoe and got left. He’s come back well this year,” said Gosden.
“It will be different ground again, (but) we’re happy with him, and there’s plenty to look forward to with him.”
Palace Pier will be long odds-on to complete his hat-trick for the season in the opening race of the Royal meeting on Tuesday, but Gosden – who now trains in partnership with son Thady – has been around long enough to know things are rarely as straightforward as they seem.
He added: “Yes, it was (a wow performance at Newbury), (but) I’ve got to be clear that he did handle the ground and maybe a horse like Lope Y Fernadez did not.
“Now we are back on summer ground, you’ll see a lot more horses come into play.”
Gosden feels Palace Pier will stay further than a mile in due course, but is in no rush to step him up in trip.
He said: “I keep being asked when we’ll go a mile and a quarter, but I didn’t know it was imperative he had to go over 10 furlongs.
“He’s capable of stepping up two furlongs if we want to at some stage. Maybe one day, but not right now.”
Top Rank won six of his first eight starts for James Tate, before finishing a creditable third behind Palace Pier at Newbury.
The Newmarket handler hopes faster ground at Ascot will help his charge to at least close the gap in a race which is part of the Qipco British Champions Series.
He said: “He’s in really good form and might even have come on a bit for Newbury – so it’s Palace Pier, round two.
“These are animals, so there’s always a chance of turning the tables. Also, Palace Pier’s only defeat came at Ascot, whereas we’ve never run there – maybe we are an Ascot specialist and just don’t know it yet!
“Top Rank has won on soft ground in the past. But like many Dark Angels, he’s changed as he’s got older and is a bit more muscular and lighter on his feet.
“It was soft enough for him at Newbury, and I’m looking forward to seeing him on quicker ground.”
Aidan O’Brien is double-handed in his bid for a fifth Queen Anne success.
The Ballydoyle handler saddles Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order Of Australia, who has been off the track since running in Hong Kong in December, as well as Lope Y Fernandez – well beaten in the Lockinge.
O’Brien said: “Lope ran in Newbury (in the Lockinge) last time out and was a bit disappointing, but we’re putting it down to the (soft) ground.
“Order Of Australia had his last run in Hong Kong. He’s had a good, long break – but we think he’s ready to start now again.
“He wasn’t beaten that far in Hong Kong. He just didn’t have a clear run when he turned in, but he ran very well.”