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Dubawi Legend heads Palmer’s Del Mar team

Hugo Palmer has a trio of chances as he searches for his first Breeders’ Cup winner.

Dubawi Legend is prominent among the Newmarket trainer’s Del Mar team next week – in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, a race which will be his second top-level venture after finishing runner-up in this month’s Dewhurst Stakes.

The colt was two lengths behind Native Trail at Newmarket.

“His run in the Dewhurst Stakes was an enormous run, but in a funny way we were all disappointed that he didn’t win,” said Palmer.

“As he went into the dip we thought he had them all cooked, but the favourite found another leg as they came up the hill. We were hugely happy with how the horse ran, and he’s come out of it in great form.”

Dubawi Legend (second from right) finishing second in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket Racecourse
Dubawi Legend (second right) finishing runner-up in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket (Tim Goode/PA)

Dubawi Legend previously finished third in the Acomb Stakes at York, a result Palmer felt was not representative of his ability – beaten four and a quarter lengths by Royal Patronage.

“He’s only had three starts, and the start in the middle (York) was a disaster,” he said.

“He is an inexperienced horse, but he has always been quite a forward horse.”

Palmer expects Dubawi Legend to handle the track well at Del Mar.

“I think the ability to handle tracks like Epsom and Newmarket is what they need to handle a very tight American track,” he said.

“Horses need to be very sure footed – they need to have great command of their limbs, great balance, and be able to gallop on both legs. These are all things which you need to do at Newmarket, and if they can’t do it there they won’t be able to do it at Del Mar.”

Also headed stateside for Palmer is Hierarchy, who will drop to five furlongs for the first time in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.

Hierarchy (left) finishing second in the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury
Hierarchy (left) finishing second in the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury (Steven Paston/PA)

The Mehmas colt was the winner of two novice events before finishing third in the Group Three Sirenia Stakes at Kempton, and then second by a head in the Group Two Mill Reef at Newbury.

“This horse is very much a sprinter – he’s a very fast horse and he’s improved with every single run this year,” said Palmer.

“He was just touched off by Wings Of War in the Mill Reef, only beaten a head, and was fighting back at the end – having shown a lot of speed.

“The plan since then has been to drop him back to five furlongs for the first time.

“We just backed off him for a few days, and he seems to have come right back to himself. He has to handle the travel, and everything else as well, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t.

“He’s a neat, balanced horse and has answered every question we’ve asked of him this year.”

Palmer’s third entrant is Ocean Road, a Qatar Racing-owned three-year-old filly last seen finishing third in this month’s Pride Stakes .

Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf contender Ocean Road
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf contender Ocean Road (John Walton/PA)

The daughter of Australia is due to take on the Filly & Mare Turf over a mile and three furlongs.

“Ocean Road has had a light campaign this year,” said her trainer.

“She was third in the Lingfield Oaks Trial – and then from a terrible draw, on ground she hated, she finished sixth in the Oaks at Epsom.

“She wasn’t able to run then until the Pride Stakes at Newmarket, where she got behind a wall of horses and met trouble in-running.

“She ran on well to finish third – it was a career-best performance.”

Palmer considers the faster conditions very likely to be found at Del Mar will be more suitable.

“The ground was just a little bit dead and tacky for her at Newmarket,” he added.

“I think she’ll be much better suited by fast ground, (and) stepping up to one mile and three furlongs at Del Mar should be to her advantage as well.

“She’s going to need to step up – and she’s going to mix it with the likes of (Aidan O’Brien’s) Love.”

Ocean Road on course for Oaks date at Epsom

Hugo Palmer’s Ocean Road is poised to take her chance in the Group One Cazoo Oaks at Epsom on Friday.

The three-year-old daughter of Australia was last seen finishing third behind Sherbet Lemon in the Listed Lingfield Oaks Trial in early May.

The Qatar Racing-owned bay was hindered by a slow start on that occasion and has subsequently undertaken some stalls practice with big-race rider Oisin Murphy.

“We’re all systems go for Epsom on Friday,” Palmer said.

“Oisin sat on her this morning and did a little bit of stalls work with her.

“She was too slowly away at Lingfield and ended up sitting last, it was all a bit of a mess on ground that was too soft for her.”

The Lingfield race was run on soft ground after a damp spring, but the Epsom turf is drying fast due to the current warm spell and Palmer is looking forward to seeing his filly run in more suitable conditions.

“We’ve always seen her as a good-moving filly that should be better on the top of the ground,” he explained.

“We just felt that on debut at Nottingham she got away with the ground, she wanted a bit quicker but she handles it, and the same also when she ran at Lingfield.

“She ended up on the worst bit of the track as well. She’s got a great turn of foot and loads of speed and we feel that the ground blunts her speed.

“We’re very hopeful that we will see her to much better effect on top of the ground.”

Ocean Road is currently a general 33-1 chance for the Classic and Palmer is mindful she will have to improve as swiftly as his high-class fillies Covert Love and Architecture did in their three-year-old seasons if she is to challenge for the prize.

“She’s going to have to show considerable improvement on what she’s done to date to win the Oaks, but I believe she has improved a huge amount at home,” he said.

“As we see year in, year out, these fillies can improve 20lb from one run to the next.

“My two best fillies that I’ve had prior to this were Covert Love and Architecture, over this trip, and they improved massively from this time of year.

“It can happen, but we’re obviously very conscious about the fact that it has to.”

Irish Legend on course for Classic Trial following racecourse spin

Hugo Palmer’s unbeaten Irish Legend went through his paces on the Rowley Mile on Thursday morning with the bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown on his agenda.

The Sea The Stars colt won on his debut at Nottingham over an extended mile and then defied a penalty when beating John Gosden’s Zagato over 10 furlongs at Chelmsford.

He worked over a mile with a stable companion under Michael Hills and while he failed to pick up his lead horse, Palmer expects him to come into his own when faced with a stiffer test of stamina.

“Michael was really happy with him even though the work wasn’t quite perfect, the pace early on (didn’t suit), but we got a blow into him which was what we came here to do,” said Palmer.

Irish Legend (left) winning on debut at Nottingham
Irish Legend (left) winning on debut at Nottingham (David Davies/PA)

“He’s an inexperienced horse who has raced twice and won twice, he’s beautifully bred (dam related to Palmer’s Irish Oaks winner Covert Love) and he’s exciting.

“All being well, we’ll go to Sandown a week tomorrow. I think the 10 furlongs there will be right up his street. After that we’ll see – even if he wins at Sandown, I don’t think we’ll go straight to Epsom, he’d probably have another run.

“We put him in the Epsom trial as sometimes that race can cut up, but I looked when the entries came out and I thought ‘well that was a wasted entry!’

“It would have just been annoying to wait until Sandown if we were to watch four horses run round Epsom. It was kind of the Jockey Club to let us on (track) today.

“He got very upset at Chelmsford, it was near Bonfire Night and there were lots of fireworks going off which blew his head, so he did well to get it together to win. Coming here, even with no crowd, it focuses their mind.”

Palmer also has a filly with Classic potential in the Qatar Racing-owned Ocean Road.

“She worked this morning. Oisin (Murphy) came in to ride her for the first time and he described her as ‘worth getting out of bed for’, so that was good,” said Palmer.

“She’s done precious little wrong and Oisin said she felt very worthy of going to an Oaks trial.

“Whether that be the Pretty Polly, as Sheikh Fahad has another earmarked for Lingfield I think, or there’s Chester and York to consider too, we’ll see.

“Plan A is black type and if she’s lucky enough to win one, we can raise out sights a bit more.”