Palace Pier bids to crown a perfect year by taking his unblemished record to six in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, sponsored by Qipco, at Ascot.
Group One triumphs in the St James’s Palace Stakes and the Prix Jacques le Marois have set the Kingman colt up as the champion miler in Europe.
Trainer John Gosden’s patience with the late developer has reaped dividends with a meteoric rise – and Saturday’s QEII is the final piece in this season’s jigsaw.
“We’ve planned this race since the Jacques le Marois, and he is coming into the race fresh and well. We’ve been happy with him in his pre-race preparation,” said Gosden.
“He ran well on the round mile in June – this is on the straight mile. It is different ground to the one he had in Deauville, but we have been pleased with the horse coming into the race.
“It was hard to judge if his run in Deauville was better than his Royal Ascot run, given the ground. He was impressive at Deauville, but I thought he was impressive at Royal Ascot because he came strongly on the bridle, and I think Frankie (Dettori) had a good hold of him at the end to win in good style.
“He would have been a Guineas horse, but we weren’t able to have a prep in the Greenham, so I went to Plan B. I wasn’t prepared to run him first time up in the Guineas, having missed last autumn, because we had planned to run him in the Lagardere on Arc day.”
Gosden also saddles the Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned Nazeef, who has had a terrific season with Group One victories in the Falmouth and Sun Chariot Stakes.
“She has improved remarkably this year,” he said.
“She is a very good filly with a great attitude that won well the other day. She handles the slower ground.
“She is a course-and-distance winner, and the owner felt she had every reason to be in the race. I think this is probably a better option than America (Breeders’ Cup) for her, and I’d say that is now unlikely for her.”
Sheikh Hamdan’s other runner, Molatham, has stamina doubts to overcome.
Racing manager Angus Gold said: “We think he handles easy ground.
“Whether he stays the trip has different opinions, but I think he will.”
Circus Maximus was beaten five and three-quarter lengths when third to Palace Pier in the Marois, but some of his best performances have come at Ascot.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien is hoping Circus Maximus’ love for the track will stand him in good stead.
“He won the St James’s Palace and the Queen Anne there, so he does love Ascot,” said the Ballydoyle handler.
“He’s a very hardy, tough horse who loves a strongly-run mile, which is what he usually gets at Ascot.
“The Jacques le Marois was a very strongly-run race – and we were forward, whereas Palace Pier was taking his time. The ground was very deep as well – and Deauville is a Flat track, while Ascot is stiffer.
“We’re very happy with the horse and we’re looking forward to the race.”
Royal Dornoch and Lancaster House complete O’Brien’s three-pronged attack.
The Revenant was runner-up 12 months ago and made a belated return to action when repeating last year’s win in the Prix Daniel Wildenstein at ParisLongchamp.
“He has had no physical issues since last year,” said trainer Francis Henri Graffard.
“I had him ready to run at the beginning of the season; then lockdown came, and we had no idea how long it would last and feared that it would force him to run on summer ground that he does not like.
“We decided to turn him out and wait until the autumn. He came back in July to allow us to get him ready for this race and the Wildenstein.
“The Revenant has come out of his Prix Daniel Wildenstein victory very well. He needed the race badly, so he will come on a lot.
“The softer the ground the better for him. Last year it was very soft, which helped us. It would be great if he runs a similar race – and, with humility, I see Palace Pier as the one to beat, and if we were placed again it would be a very good performance.”
Century Dream outran his odds of 25-1 when third to Roaring Lion in this race two years ago.
Simon and Ed Crisford’s six-year-old will be ridden by James Doyle, who said: “The more rain the better for him – he’s run well in the race before a couple of years ago when he wasn’t beaten far by Roaring Lion.
“He’s in good shape himself, he’s been running well this season and won nicely at Goodwood when he got his preferred surface.”
Lord Glitters has good course form, having won the Queen Anne in 2019, but has finished behind Century Dream in the last two renewals of this race.
David O’Meara reports the grey to be all the better for his run behind Addeybb at Ayr.
“We were happy with his run at Ayr, when he probably took too long getting out but flew home,” he said.
“It’s a very hot QEII, but Ascot suits him and hopefully he can end up in the prize-money.”