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Palace Pier enters top bracket for Dettori

Frankie Dettori hailed Palace Pier as potentially the best miler he has ever ridden as John and Thady Gosden’s colt claimed a third Group One in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

That is some claim considering the greats Dettori has partnered in his illustrious career – which spans more than three decades and includes the likes of Dubai Millennium, Barathea, Markofdistinction and Ramonti.

However, Palace Pier took his career record to seven wins from eight starts when beating the admirable Lady Bowthorpe by a length and a half.

His sole defeat came on Champions Day last year when he lost a shoe on leaving the stalls and did not act on very soft ground.

The son of Kingman oozed class, making a mid-race move three furlongs out which meant he was probably in front sooner than ideal and led to him idling close home.

It was impressive from the 1-2 favourite, though, and perhaps the only surprise was that his Italian jockey was not quite his usual flamboyant self on returning to the paddock.

“There was no flying dismount, because I did one at Chester on the same type of surface and fell over!” said Dettori.

Palace Pier leaves his rivals in his wake
Palace Pier leaves his rivals in his wake (John Walton/PA)

That was his only problem, however, and if it comes after the race there is certainly no room for complaining.

“I found a nice rhythm after the start, and he usually hits a flat spot between the three and the two, so I went to lay up – but he just went ‘whoosh’ and took off,” added Dettori.

“I hit the front over two out, so he was a long time in front. He won like a really good horse.”

Gosden senior seems keen on a step up to a mile and a quarter later in the season, with the Juddmonte International at York in the frame – but his jockey comes from a school of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.

“I don’t think we need to step up in trip at the moment – he likes a straight mile, and his next target could be the Queen Anne,” added Dettori.

When asked to compare Palace Pier to some of the other great milers, he said: “He’s very good, he’s only run eight times.

“He doesn’t show a lot in the morning, but he’s a wonderful athlete with a good temperament – he’s got everything you want. He can only get better, so I’m very excited about the summer and the end of the season with him.

“He’s a serious horse. When I rode him the other morning he flew – he usually doesn’t do that. I said to John we are blessed to have horses like him in the yard, because it keeps the smile on everyone’s face.

Frankie Dettori celebrates winning the Lockinge on Palace Pier
Frankie Dettori celebrates winning the Lockinge on Palace Pier (John Walton/PA)

“He just loves his racing and he’s one of the best milers I’ve ever ridden. I’m delighted this is only the beginning of the season.

“He could be the best I’ve ever ridden, but he’ll have to go and win a string of Group Ones first to be the best – at the moment everything is in the right place. I’ve ridden a few, mind – Barathea, Dubai Millennium and Mark Of Esteem to name a few.”

Dettori, who has already won the 1000 Guineas on Mother Earth and the Chester Cup on Falcon Eight in recent weeks, and shows no signs of slowing up at the age of 50, added: “It’s not been a bad start to the season, has it?”

Palace Pier primed for Lockinge duty

After a sparkling return to action, all eyes will be on Palace Pier as he bids to claim further big-race honours in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

The Kingman colt was brilliant in beating Pinatubo and Wichita in a pulsating climax to the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot – and handled more testing conditions to double his Group One tally in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.

He was beaten for the first time when third on his final start of 2020 in the QEII at Ascot in October, but a lost shoe in bottomless ground emerged as a viable excuse and he looked back to his brilliant best when making a successful reappearance in last month’s bet365 Mile at Sandown.

Palace Pier is odds-on to claim a seventh win from eight career starts in this weekend’s feature event, but John Gosden is taking nothing for granted.

“The race (at Sandown) has brought him on and we’re pleased with him going in at this stage,” said the Clarehaven handler.

“It looks a good edition of the race and we wouldn’t want to see a lot more rain. He lost a shoe and had a slight injury in the QEII when the ground got very soft, so hopefully it’s not that – it can happen at Newbury.

“We’re pleased with him, but I have plenty of respect for the opposition. Lope Y Fernandez comes over and he ran exceptionally well at Leopardstown. Sometimes the Lockinge can come up a little bit weak, but not this year.”

The horse rated the biggest threat to Palace Pier by bookmakers is Lope Y Fernandez, who bids to provide trainer Aidan O’Brien with a third Lockinge success following the previous triumphs of the brilliant Hawk Wing (2003) and Rhododendron (2018).

The four-year-old ran in Group One company over a variety of different distances last season, but sticks to a mile after making an impressive return over that trip in a Listed event at Leopardstown last month.

Lope Y Fernandez (left) was third in the Irish Guineas to Siskin
Lope Y Fernandez (left) was third in the Irish Guineas to Siskin (PA)

O’Brien said: “We were delighted with him last year. The Irish Guineas was a messy race and it didn’t really tell us if he was a sprinter or a miler.

“After that we messed around with him a bit, but in all fairness he took it well to say it wasn’t far from ideal.

“At the end of it all we decided this horse was a miler. His last run at the Breeders’ Cup was good and we decided we’d get him ready for this race.

“He’s done very well physically and mentally and has settled down. We were delighted with his run at Leopardstown. We’re looking forward to it.

“We’re delighted Palace Pier is running, everyone wants to see the big horses in these races.”

Top Rank is stepped up in class by James Tate after landing a sixth win from eight outings in the Doncaster Mile in late March.

“Palace Pier has won on soft before, so I’m not sure if that was why he was beaten at Ascot, but in any case you’ve just got to concentrate on your own horse. The ground looks like it will suit our horse anyway,” said Tate.

“Trip-wise with him we’ve looked at both alternatives – dropping back to seven furlongs and going up to 10. He doesn’t pull, so I wouldn’t rule out a mile and a quarter one day.

“He may be five but has not been over-raced. I’m very hopeful this season will be his peak season, so it seems like the right one to be having a go at the Lockinge.

“He’s in good form, so we’ll have a go.”

My Oberon (left) was impressive on his return in the Earl of Sefton
My Oberon (left) was impressive on his return in the Earl of Sefton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The William Haggas-trained My Oberon filled the runner-up spot behind Top Rank in the Superior Mile at Haydock last September and renews rivalry off the back of winning Newmarket’s Earl of Sefton Stakes.

Haggas said: “He seems fine. I was going to run him in the Prix d’Ispahan, but it’s complicated (travelling to France) so we’re going for the Lockinge.

“I’m not sure he’ll enjoy the ground much but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

“He’s definitely improved. It was a good run first time out – he beat a couple of solid yardsticks.

“Hopefully he’ll show a bit more improvement.”

David O’Meara’s Lord Glitters and John Quinn’s Safe Voyage both make the journey from Yorkshire.

The globetrotting Lord Glitters returns to home soil following a successful stint in Dubai, where he won twice, while Safe Voyage has been off the track since finishing last in the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November.

O’Meara said of Lord Glitters: “He’s had a very good winter. He came back and freshened up nicely.

“He won’t mind the soft ground. Although he’s won on fast ground abroad, he handles slow conditions absolutely fine as well.

“He was let down a bit, but he got turned out every day. He’s now ready to go again.”

Quinn said of Safe Voyage: “We went to Keeneland, but it just went against us. He’s had a nice break, we’re happy with him and he’s training well.

“It’s a good race, but we’re hoping for a good run.

“He’s a very good horse, we’re pleased with him. He’s moving well and it’s fingers crossed. We’re looking forward to it.”

Palace Pier faces 11 in Lockinge

Palace Pier is set to face 11 rivals as the brilliant miler bids to justify short odds in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

The John and Thady Gosden-trained four-year-old is already odds on at around 4-7 for Saturday’s Group One on the strength of his top-class form.

The Kingman colt has won six of his seven starts, including twice at the top level – and he made a winning reappearance in the bet365 Mile at Sandown last month.

Palace Pier’s only defeat so far came when he was third to The Revenant in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on unsuitably soft ground in October.

Despite his outstanding credentials, Palace Pier has not scared off the opposition.

Among the declarations is fellow Group One scorer, David O’Meara’s hardy veteran Lord Glitters – while other Group-race winners include the John Quinn-trained Safe Voyage, James Tate’s progressive Top Rank, My Oberon, from William Haggas’s stable, and William Jarvis’ Lady Bowthorpe.

Aidan O’Brien’s Lope Y Fernandez is the sole Irish challenger – with the dozen runners completed by Bless Him, Century Dream, Happy Power, Lord Campari and Pogo.