Baaeed bidding to prove his worth in clash of the miling titans

Baaeed has the chance to prove he is a superstar in waiting, in what is a fascinating renewal of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

Unraced until June this year, the William Haggas-trained colt has made giant strides with each run and last time out proved he could cut the mustard at the highest level in the Prix du Moulin.

Despite maintaining his unbeaten record, though, Haggas felt he was not quite at his peak that day and in any case, he will have to take his form up another notch against Palace Pier, the best miler in Europe.

“The bit that none of us know, and that includes me, is what he’s got left as he’s going to be tested. I know Jim (Crowley) is very fond of him and he’s a very, very lovely horse to deal with,” said Haggas.

“I couldn’t see, in my initial reading of it, where the pace was going to come from, but it’s a very strong race. It’s a championship race and it’s probably the best mile race of the season.

“All I’ll say is that if he wins on Saturday then the people who have been building him up were right. It is extraordinary, everyone wants him to go maiden, novice, Listed, Group Three, Group One.

“What we really want is to do what Sea The Stars did, which was to go from the Juddmonte to the Irish Champion Stakes and the Arc de Triomphe. That’s the ideal career and this horse, to use a popular expression, has danced every dance so far.

“I’m not a punter, but I’d have Palace Pier at even money, no questions, and be 3-1 with Baaeed. What they are in the market is irrelevant, I think he’s as short as he is on potential, but he hasn’t really got going.”

Reflecting on the Moulin, Haggas said: “I was really pleased with him at Longchamp, but we’d had a bit of a hiccup and I don’t want to undermine the horses that finished behind, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t see him at his best.

“If we get to Saturday all in one piece, you’ll see the best of him.”

The standard is well and truly set by Palace Pier, trained by John and Thady Gosden. The one blemish on his 10-race record came in the corresponding race 12 months ago – on deep ground when he also lost two shoes.

Thady Gosden said: “It looks a great race, I’m looking forward to it, but obviously there are some nerves for sure.

“He’s been in good form since the Jacques le Marois and everyone has been happy with him at home.

“Baaeed looks the big danger, he’s the horse coming through the ranks and won a Group One last time.

“This race last year is the only blemish on his record, he’s an exceptional racehorse but it was frustrating with the ground last year and he lost two shoes which in that ground will hinder your chances.

“Whether this is his last race, it’s a decision for his owners after the race.”

Jeff Smith has been lucky enough to have owned and bred some fantastic horses during a long involvement in the game – and he feels Alcohol Free, a three-time Group One winner, is right up with the best of them.

Oisin Murphy salutes the crowd as Alcohol Free wins the Sussex Stakes
Oisin Murphy salutes the crowd as Alcohol Free wins the Sussex Stakes (John Walton/PA)

The Andrew Balding-trained filly has had a break since failing to stay 10 furlongs in the Juddmonte International.

“Obviously I’m looking forward to it and it’s one hell of a race. It brings all the strands of form together and it’s certainly the highlight of the day – for me anyway!” said Smith

“She’s already beaten the colts once this year (Sussex Stakes), there was cut in the ground at Goodwood so that won’t be an issue, it’s just going to be a case of best horse on the day, which is as it should be.

“She had a break at the stud for about 10 days after York, put on a bit of weight, it was absolutely perfect. I haven’t seen her since she went back to Andrew’s, but by all accounts she’s in cracking form.

“Of all my horses she’d have to be the best, you don’t win three Group Ones without being top class. She’s achieved a lot in a season and a half.

“This will be it for the season, she won’t be going abroad but she stays in training next year.”

Mother Earth winning the 1000 Guineas under Frankie Dettori
Mother Earth winning the 1000 Guineas under Frankie Dettori (Mike Egerton/PA)

Aidan O’Brien’s Mother Earth has had 15 outings in two seasons, an incredible amount considering all bar her racecourse debut have been at Group level.

She won the 1000 Guineas back in May, added the Prix Rothschild in August and has not been out of the first three all season.

O’Brien said: “Mother Earth ran a good race in the Sun Chariot in Newmarket where the winner came up the other side. She is very consistent. She turned around the Matron Stakes form (with No Speak Alexander) by four or five lengths.”

Saeed bin Suroor has been absent from the season-defining mile contest for some time – but his old favourite Benbatl gives him a puncher’s chance.

“He came back good from his last race and is working well,” said Bin Suroor, who has won the QEII a record five times, most recently with Poet’s Voice in 2010.

“The ground is good at this moment. There are showers around, but if the ground stays as it is that would be great.

“The jockey (Pat Cosgrave) knows him well – he won a Group One in Australia on him (in 2017).

“The horse is in good form and good condition. It’s a very strong race with some of best milers in the world, but hopefully we will see a good run from Benbatl again.”

William Jarvis has elected to run Lady Bowthorpe here rather than in the Champion Stakes and said: “Once I saw that the Derby winner Adayar was running in the Champion as well as Mishriff it wasn’t a difficult decision. I don’t think we could beat either of them, but we might be competitive in the mile race.

“Nothing emerged after the Deauville race (beat only one), although she didn’t settle in the stables despite having travelled over there well. I’ve been delighted with her since and we are all looking forward to this.”

Adding further spice is Master Of The Seas, as the 2000 Guineas runner-up has his second outing since his comeback in the Joel Stakes won by Benbatl.

Trainer Charlie Appleby is hoping to head next to the Breeders’ Cup Mile – and the QEII is this year a ‘win and you’re in’ contest for that race.

The Moulton Paddocks handler told the Goldolphin website: “Master Of The Seas has pleased us since his reappearance (third) in the Joel Stakes last month. He is mentally maturing. The hood is removed this time. This is his stepping stone to Del Mar.”

Palace Pier and Baaeed face off in QEII

Palace Pier and Baaeed will clash in Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot.

The John and Thady Gosden-trained Palace Pier has been beaten only once in his career, when defeated by three and a half lengths behind The Revenant in this race last season.

Since then the colt has been faultless over the same mile trip, beginning his season with an eight-length success in the bet365 Mile and then going on to score a Group One treble that included the Lockinge, Queen Anne and Prix Jacques le Marois.

Palace Pier and Frankie Dettori, who takes the ride at Ascot on Saturday
Palace Pier and Frankie Dettori, who takes the ride at Ascot on Saturday (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Palace Pier’s chief rival appears to be the unbeaten Shadwell colt Baaeed, who has been a comfortable winner in each of his five runs from maiden to Group One level.

Trained by William Haggas, the three-year-old was a six-and-a-half-length winner of the Thoroughbred Stakes at Goodwood and then went to take the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp on his last outing.

William Haggas' Baaeed
William Haggas’ Baaeed (Tim Goode/PA)

Andrew Balding’s Alcohol Free is also declared and will look to bounce back from a sixth-placed run when last seen in the Juddmonte International at York.

Prior to that the filly had twice been a Group One winner this season, taking the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

The Revenant bids to retain his title in the race after prevailing by a head last season for trainer Francis-Henri Graffard.

The chestnut has not been victorious in three runs this season, but was beaten by just a short neck when bidding for a third Prix Daniel Wildenstein at Longchamp earlier in the month.

The Revenant winning the race last season with Palace Pier on his left
The Revenant winning the race last season with Palace Pier on his left (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Charlie Appleby is represented by 2000 Guineas runner-up Master Of The Seas, who went on to finish third in the Group Two Joel Stakes at Newmarket in September.

The winner of that race was Saeed bin Suroor’s Benbatl, who shares an owner with Master Of The Seas in the shape of Godolphin and is also entered at Ascot on Saturday.

William Jarvis’ Lady Bowthorpe will look to regain the form that saw her win the Group One Nassau Stakes at Goodwood after a disappointing run when seventh of eight last time in the Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville in August.

Mother Earth after winning the 1000 Guineas
Mother Earth after winning the 1000 Guineas (Mike Egerton/PA)

Aidan O’Brien’s Mother Earth will be contesting her eighth consecutive Group One race this term, with the filly having won both the 1000 Guineas and the Prix Rothschild in a campaign that has seen her finish no worse than third each time.

Jessica Harrington’s Njord and David O’Meara’s Lord Glitters round off the field of 10 contenders.

Palace Pier and Baaeed star among 10 QEII hopefuls

Champion miler Palace Pier heads up a total of 10 confirmations for Saturday’s mouthwatering Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.

The John and Thady Gosden-trained four-year-old has only lost once in his 10-race career but that defeat did come in this race 12 months ago.

Connections blamed the testing ground on that occasion but with the weather set fair this week, better conditions are anticipated.

John Gosden said: “It was frustrating when Palace Pier had to miss the Sussex Stakes with that blood disorder but he has since won the Prix Jacques Le Marois and it was always the intention after that to wait for this race.

“He’s been training well and he’ll appreciate what will hopefully be nicer ground than last year. A little over a week ago it was bottomless, and while we don’t expect it to dry out to good to firm, it won’t be like that.”

Palace Pier is set to clash with William Haggas’ hitherto unbeaten Baaeed in what promises to be a highlight on Qipco British Champions Day.

The three-year-old has come from nowhere this season and was unraced until June, but took the step up to Group One company with aplomb when winning the Prix du Moulin last time out.

Haggas said: “With the likes of Palace Pier and Alcohol Free in the field it could be the race of the day, but Baaeed’s preparation has gone well and he’s in good shape. He’s a nice horse and he’s come a long way in a short space of time.”

Last year’s winner The Revenant is back again for French trainer Frances-Henri Graffard.

Following a couple of defeats on unsuitably fast ground in the spring, he returned to something like his best when a fast finishing second to Real World in the Prix Daniel Wildenstein on Arc weekend.

The Revenant relished the mud last year but conditions are set to be quicker
The Revenant relished the mud last year but conditions are set to be quicker (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Andrew Balding’s filly Alcohol Free is another top-class contender who in any other year would be among the favourites. She beat the boys in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and has been on a small break since failing to see out 10 furlongs in the Juddmonte International at York.

Aidan O’Brien’s Mother Earth has been on the go since winning the 1000 Guineas and has been admirably consistent, most recently finishing second to Saffron Beach in the Sun Chariot.

Saeed bin Suroor has left in his stable stalwart Benbatl, who returned to winning ways last time out and he will be enthused by the forecast, while his Godolphin compatriot Charlie Appleby could run Master Of The Seas.

Kieran Shoemark punches the air after Lady Bowthorpe's Nassau Stakes win
Kieran Shoemark punches the air after Lady Bowthorpe’s Nassau Stakes win (John Walton/PA)

William Jarvis’ Lady Bowthorpe was one of the most popular winners of the season in the Nassau Stakes, but she needs to bounce back having disappointed in the Prix Jean Romanet.

David O’Meara’s veteran Lord Glitters and the Jessica Harrington-trained Njord – both previous winners of the Balmoral Handicap which closes the Ascot card – complete the field.

‘You have to go for it’ – Dettori ready for Palace Pier v Baaeed in QEII

Frankie Dettori is relishing the prospect of a clash between Baaeed and Palace Pier in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Champions Day.

The popular Italian has been a near ever present in the saddle during Palace Pier’s career to date, missing just one of the Kingman colt’s 10 starts, and they have met with defeat only once – finishing third in testing conditions for last year’s QEII.

John and Thady Gosden’s charge is four from four so far this season, taking his Group One tally to five with triumphs in the Lockinge at Newbury, the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot and the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.

But he looks set to face one of the toughest tests of his career if returning to Berkshire next month, with the William Haggas-trained Baaeed emerging as a serious rival after maintaining his unbeaten record in Sunday’s Prix du Moulin de Longchamp.

“Baaeed looked very impressive in the Moulin,” Dettori said on Monday.

“The races are there. If you’ve got the horses you go for the same races. I’m sure he will turn up.

Frankie Dettori and Palace Pier winning the Lockinge at Newbury
Frankie Dettori and Palace Pier winning the Lockinge at Newbury (John Walton/PA)

“They will all be there. There is nowhere to hide this time of year. You have to take the gloves off and go for it.

“As for Palace Pier, I’m not going to talk negative about him. He’s beaten what’s been put in front of him. Everyone wants to take his title away – and at the moment they have failed.

“Let’s hope it carries on that way.”

Gosden indicates Ascot is possible swansong for Palace Pier

John Gosden has intimated Palace Pier is likely to only run once more before heading off to stud.

The four-year-old won the Prix Jacques le Marois for a second successive year on Sunday, taking his career record to nine wins from 10 starts.

Palace Pier holds two entries on Champions Day at Ascot, in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over a mile – the race in which he suffered his only defeat last year – and the Champion Stakes over 10 furlongs.

“I told everyone why he couldn’t run in the Sussex as he was quite ill,” Gosden told talkSPORT.

“We just managed to get to the race, he would have been 80-odd per cent ready, he was 10 days short – so two pieces of work really.

“He was on the wing so a little bit out on his own. He went a length up and then sort of thought he’d done his job, but Kevin (Manning on runner-up Poetic Flare) did a clever job under that rail, going on the quicker ground and was coming back at him.

“The class of Palace Pier got him through, as Frankie (Dettori) said. We were thrilled to win off an inadequate prep.

“We’ll see where we go, it will probably be Champions Day and then off to stud.

“I mentioned 10 furlongs as a possibility and he is in both races, but if it’s very soft it would be unlikely. If it’s good then it would be fascinating, he’d have nothing to lose.”

Palace Pier fends off Poetic Flare to claim Jacques le Marois double

Palace Pier narrowly denied Poetic Flare to to claim back-to-back victories in the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques le Marois at Deauville.

Defeated only once in nine previous career starts, Palace Pier was favourite to make it four from four for the season under Frankie Dettori, having missed last month’s Sussex Stakes at Goodwood following unsatisfactory blood test results.

Always travelling strongly, John and Thady Gosden’s stable star moved smoothly into contention on the outside of the field, with Jim Bolger’s 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes hero Poetic Flare delivering his challenge close to the stands’ rail.

In receipt of 6lb from his older rival, Sussex Stakes runner-up Poetic Flare did his best to claw back Palace Pier inside the last half-furlong, but Dettori’s mount was always doing enough to hold him at bay.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained Order Of Australia finished third to make it a clean sweep for the visiting party.

Gosden said: “I lost a lot of time with him. He had a blood disorder which prevented him from running in the Sussex Stakes. To be perfectly frank, he came here with here with the minimum amount of work.

“Frankie said that his class made the difference. He was blowing a lot afterwards.

“However, if you bypass the Prix Jacques Le Marois, you’ve missed the race of the year. Of course, coming back here was the long-term aim. All things being equal, I ran a horse that was 80 per cent fit.

“He had the class and the jockey too. You could see that he was starting to tire towards the end, due to the fact that he had been held up in his work because of his illness.

“It was a super edition of the race and the second is an iron horse.

“I would have liked to have had him 100 per cent as last year. However, he ran a blinder and his trademark acceleration came to the fore.”

John Gosden was delighted with the performance of Palace Pier
John Gosden was delighted with the performance of Palace Pier (Mike Egerton/PA)

Paddy Power cut Palace Pier to 7-4 from 2-1 for Ascot’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, a race in which he finished third last term.

Gosden confirmed his charge will head straight for Champions Day in October, but raised the Qipco Champion Stakes as a potential alternative to the QEII.

He told Sky Sports Racing: “He’s a gorgeous horse and a lovely horse to be around. He’s got this amazing cruising speed and acceleration, (but) I wouldn’t be frightened of stepping him up to a mile and a quarter.

“I think we’ll wait for Champions Day. When you run a horse like this, don’t come back too quick, so we’ll wait for Champions Day and possibly run over a mile or even a mile and a quarter.”

When asked if Palace Pier could run in the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November, Gosden said: “That’s a long way off. Del Mar is a track I’m very fond of, I’ve had a lot of success there and a lot of good friends there, but that’s a long way down the road at the moment.”

Dettori was suitably impressed with Palace Pier’s performance.

He said: “I love the horse – he’s the best miler I’ve rode.

“He’s beautiful and he’s got everything – pace, a turn of foot and goes on any ground.

“We were rushing to get him here today. He’s missed a bunch of work and we got him here on 80 per cent.

“He’s just so good and got away with it.”

He added: “I kept an eye on Kevin (Manning, on Poetic Flare) and when he kicked I went after him. I basically raced on my own for the last 200 metres and passed him good, but Kevin came back and fought back.

“Like I said he (Palace Pier) is so good and just keeps on doing it.

“Apart from losing a shoe and getting a bad start in the QEII last year, he’s done nothing wrong.

“He’s a joy to ride and a joy to be around.”

Poetic Flare lost out in a photo
Poetic Flare lost out in a photo (David Davies/PA)

Kevin Manning was full of praise for Poetic Flare, saying: “He ran a very good race. The horse again gave of his best today.

“We are really over the moon with his effort.”

O’Brien already has his sights set on the Breeders’ Cup for Order Of Australia, but a return trip to France next month is also a possibility.

He said: “I think the mile is a perfect trip for him, even on a straight course. He might even be able to go longer but he has a high cruising speed.

“His end-of-year objective is the Breeders’ Cup Mile in the US, which he won last year.

“We’ll see how he recovers from the race before deciding where he goes next, but the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp at Paris-Longchamp in September, for example, isn’t to be excluded.

“I’m very happy with his performance.”

Marois conditions set to suit Palace Pier – but Poetic Flare ‘huge threat’

John Gosden is pleased to see the ground drying out in favour of last year’s winner Palace Pier ahead of Sunday’s Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.

While the highest-rated horse in Britain did win on testing ground 12 months ago, his only defeat in a nine-race career to date came when the mud was flying at Ascot on Champions Day.

Palace Pier was forced to miss a clash with 2000 Guineas hero Poetic Flare in the Sussex Stakes, but the two will meet this weekend.

“He had a blood disorder going into Goodwood and it just took a little time to get over it. We’re just finding our way back, he’s worked well in towards the race but you could do without those issues coming in the middle of the season,” Gosden told Sky Sports Racing.

“He won the Jacques le Marois last year, but it will be different conditions this year. It’s dry and warm and it’s a small but elite field.

“Like most horses I think he just wants good ground, they can show their acceleration on good ground and that is absolutely his favourite.”

Although Poetic Flare was beaten by Alcohol Free at Goodwood, he had earlier been extremely impressive in the St James’s Palace Stakes and Gosden is wary of the threat he poses.

“He is a huge threat, obviously, I don’t think he was entirely in love with the ground at Goodwood but he’s a phenomenal horse and has put in such great performances – he’s the top three-year-old colt,” said Gosden.

“It’s a very smart race but so it should be, it’s the top mile race in France.”

Derab, a half-brother to Enable, runs on Saturday
Derab, a half-brother to Enable, runs on Saturday (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

A day earlier Gosden runs Derab in the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano, a half-brother to Enable.

He was unplaced in the French Derby behind St Mark’s Basilica, but Gosden feels he had excuses that day.

“He was drawn on the outside and he got a bad bump. When you are drawn on the outside there it’s a real killer. He ran a very nice race the other day when he was beaten by a pretty exceptional four-year-old (Real World) I thought, in the Listed (race at Newbury),” said Gosden.

“He probably likes it on the easy side of good, but it’s the last big three-year-old only race and we won it last year with Mishriff. It’s a very valuable race.”

Speaking of Mishriff, Gosden said: “The Juddmonte on Wednesday is the plan. We don’t have to give quite as many pounds (to St Mark’s Basilica) this time (as in the Eclipse) and if it’s faster ground and on a flatter track that might help, but that’s taking nothing away from the winner.

“They are the last two Prix du Jockey Club winners. Our fellow will sharpen up for the run as well, he’d wintered earlier, he’d been off a long time.

“Who knows what he’ll do later in the year, we’ll go one step at a time. All things are possible.

“He’s in good order and I’m happy with his work.”

Another Gosden star heading to York is Stradivarius, who was taken out of his Goodwood Cup defence following a deluge of rain.

“Hopefully it doesn’t pour down and York is the plan,” he said.

“We’d longed to run at Goodwood, but there was 60mm of rain and 16 the night before so it was pretty waterlogged.

“We’d run him on ground like that before at Ascot and didn’t want to make the mistake again.

“I think so (the same Stradivarius). He is a seven-year-old full entire and to that extent, you know, life will catch up with all of us eventually.”

Fabre wary of Palace Pier as Victor Ludorum goes for Marois gold

Andre Fabre believes Palace Pier “sets the standard” in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville on Sunday.

Fabre, who has won the Marois a joint-record seven times, is set to run Victor Ludorum, who returned to winning ways in Group Three company last time out.

John and Thady Gosden’s Palace Pier won the race last year, and while he missed the Sussex Stakes due to a blood disorder he has already won the Lockinge and Queen Anne Stakes this season.

Poetic Flare, who is also due to run, is the leading three-year-old miler, but Jim Bolger’s charge was beaten in the Sussex by Alcohol Free last time out, his third defeat of a busy season in which he has won the 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes.

“He’s going to run, he won nicely last time and if the ground dries up that will help him,” said Fabre of Victor Ludorum.

“It will have helped his confidence winning last time out. I’m quite confident he’s going to run well.

“I haven’t been that impressed by the three-year-old generation this season, to be honest – so I think Palace Pier remains the one to beat.

“I know Jim Bolger really likes his horse, but he’s a bit up and down. On his good days he is very good, he was very impressive at Royal Ascot but he has obviously been beaten a few times, too.

“Because of that I think Palace Pier sets the standard to aim at.”

Bolger could also run his Irish Guineas winner Mac Swiney.

Jessica Harrington’s Alpine Star was second last year and is set for another crack, Richard Hannon is represented by Chindit and Aidan O’Brien has left in Mother Earth and Order Of Australia.

Marianafoot, winner of the Prix Maurice de Gheest at the weekend, has been taken out by Jerome Reynier.

Palace Pier to miss Sussex Stakes

Palace Pier will miss next week’s Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood following unsatisfactory blood results.

The Kingman colt is unbeaten in three starts this season – taking his Group One tally to four with top-level victories in the Lockinge at Newbury and the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.

John and Thady Gosden’s stable star looked set for a mouth-watering clash with Jim Bolger’s 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes winner Poetic Flare at Goodwood, but he has been ruled out of the summer showpiece meeting.

Thady Gosden said: “His bloods are off, and obviously it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do to try and push him into the Sussex.

“The next race that suits him is the Prix Jacques le Marois (at Deauville). We’ll have to miss Goodwood, which is frustrating.

“Hopefully we’ll take him to France. He obviously won the Jacques le Marois last year, so it’s a good back-up.”

Palace Pier delivers perfect start for Dettori

Palace Pier justified odds-on favouritism in the Queen Anne Stakes to get Royal Ascot 2021 off to a perfect start for Frankie Dettori.

Winner of the St James’s Palace Stakes at the meeting 12 months ago in front of empty grandstands, John and Thady Gosden’s brilliant miler followed up in front of a crowd of 12,000 this time.

Racing slightly on the flank in the early stages, Dettori managed to get some cover behind Prince Eiji by halfway.

Entering the final two furlongs, those who took the prohibitive 2-7 price about Palace Pier might have been a little concerned as Dettori got lower in the saddle to ask for his effort.

But while the winning move was not immediate, Palace Pier got into top gear with a furlong to run – and the race was over as he took two lengths out of the others.

He just had to be kept up to his work as Lope Y Fernandez emerged from the pack to claim second, a length and a half away, with Ascot specialist Sir Busker back in third.

Palace Pier’s only defeat remains on Champions Day last year at Ascot in the Queen Elizabeth II – when he lost a shoe in heavy ground.

Dettori said: “There wasn’t much pace in the race and I had him much further forward than usual.

“I stalked the pace, I had the leaders beat with a furlong and a half to go and then he went a couple of lengths clear and he took it easy with me.

Frankie Dettori performs his trademark flying dismount after Queen Anne Stakes victory on Palace Pier
Frankie Dettori performs his trademark flying dismount after Queen Anne Stakes victory on Palace Pier (David Davies/PA)

“It was his first time on real good to firm ground, so he wasn’t so sure on it – but still, he proved again he’s the best miler around. He was in front on his own for a while, so he was taking things easy.

“He did (stumble just after the line). He’s quite clumsy with his feet – he’s forever losing his shoes and things like that, but when he goes fast he’s all right.

“It’s a pressure ride, the first one (of the meeting) – you want everything to go right, and it did.”

He added: “This was my first Royal Ascot winner in 1990, this race (Markofdistinction), and it’s great to get a win for John and Thady.

“He was a fresh horse, he is one of the best horses in the world so you want everything to go right and we can breathe a little bit now!

“At the moment there’s no need to change his trip. You can rely on him, he’s like picking one of the best players in the team to take a penalty first in a shootout.

“It’s great people are back here, it’s like a mirage – there’s nothing better than Ascot with people.”

Gosden senior said: “We suspected a slow pace and we got that slow pace, so the key thing then is don’t sit out the back. He did it smoothly, came through and won his race, but he’s exactly like his father (Kingman) – as soon as he gets there he thinks he’s done enough.

“If I worked him at home with an ordinary horse he’d just stay with him, that’s his game.

“When you are odds-on like that there’d be something wrong if you weren’t nervous, but it can be a banana skin. Frankie was aware there was no pace so he asserted early, then I noticed he was just hands and heels to keep him going.

“He’s probably done more in a piece of work at home than today.

“I’ve been second in this race three times, but that’s my first win – it obviously took Thady to get me over the line!”

Looking to the future, the Clarehaven handler said: “You could go up in trip with him, as you can see how relaxed he is. He is in the Juddmonte, but he’s also in the Sussex and the Prix Jacques le Marois, so I’ll talk to the owner and see.

“All the races are options, he’d have no trouble with the trip if they decide to go there.”

Royal Ascot day one – Stars on show as crowds return to summer showpiece

The true splendour of Royal Ascot is about to return in 2021 as the course prepares for a crowd of up to 12,000 each day to witness and acclaim its equine and human heroes and heroines.

There will be no royal processions this year, but the showpiece meeting can in any case at least approach its accustomed ceremony again, after being largely silent and bereft at the height of coronavirus restrictions last year.

As the traditional sounds and sights make their comeback, a throng of rising and returning stars will bid for top billing on the opening day – with three Group One crowns there to be won in the first four races.

The curtain-raising Queen Anne Stakes has long appeared at the mercy of Palace Pier and Frankie Dettori. John and Thady Gosden’s colt has been beaten just once in his eight career starts – at this course on British Champions Day last year – and has twice been imperious again so far this year.

Ascot’s running order then showcases the juvenile potential of the Group Two Coventry Stakes – before Battaash, making his first start of the campaign after an injury-delayed preparation, bids for a second successive King’s Stand Stakes, and then the best three-year-old milers complete the top-level action in the St James’s Palace Stakes.

Two of the toughest handicaps on the calendar, over varying distances, and the Listed Wolferton Stakes close out a card full of depth and quality which extends to seven races and until after 6pm.

Palace Pier just superior in mile mission?

Palace Pier and Frankie Dettori were a class apart in last month's Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury
Palace Pier and Frankie Dettori were a class apart in last month’s Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury (John Walton/PA)

The Gosdens’ Palace Pier has looked a cut above his opponents on every rise in class, apart from his sole defeat in very deep ground in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes here last October. The son of Kingman was far too good again on both starts this year, in Sandown’s bet365 Mile and then when taking his Group One tally to four in the Lockinge at Newbury last month. It is hard to envisage anything other than a fourth top-level win in the Queen Anne Stakes, and second in succession at this meeting – on the straight course this time – following last year’s St James’s Palace.

Battaash is back …

The late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum with his mighty sprinter Battaash after victory in the 2019 Coolmore Nunthorpe at York
The late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum with his mighty sprinter Battaash after victory in the 2019 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York (PA)

Trainer Charlie Hills has always appeared to be quietly confident Battaash would return in time to defend his King’s Stand Stakes crown, despite the injury discovered during his winter at Shadwell Stud. It was the most rewarding of sights to see the brilliant sprinter finally win at Ascot last year, after twice being outdone by Blue Point in this Group One. It will be an admirable effort if he manages to follow up, on his first start since last August, adding yet another major win to his stellar CV – and poignant too, of course, following the death of his owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum three months ago.

Like father like son – Poetic Flare out to uphold Bolger dynasty

Poetic Flare and Kevin Manning won the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket last month
Poetic Flare and Kevin Manning won the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket last month (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Veteran Irish trainer Jim Bolger is renowned for his expert handling over many years of a succession of superstar performers. Poetic Flare is, of course, already a case in point for his exploits last month – battling hard to win the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, struggling when beaten into a close sixth in the French equivalent two weeks later and then, just another six days on, going down by a short head to stablemate Mac Swiney in the Irish Guineas at the Curragh. His brilliant sire Dawn Approach won the Guineas at Newmarket and the St James’s Palace for Bolger in 2013 – and Poetic Flare is sure to give it a good go too, despite the usual high-profile opposition from the Gosden, Ballydoyle and Godolphin powerhouses.

Watch out for Ballydoyle in the Coventry

Aidan O’Brien's two-year-olds are always a threat to all
Aidan O’Brien’s two-year-olds are always a threat to all (John Walton/PA)

The Coventry Stakes is an obvious launchpad for future champions, and Aidan O’Brien is chief among the foremost who nurture such prodigious talent. It is no surprise to note the Tipperary trainer has won four of the last 10 editions – and this year he relies on improving Listowel winner The Acropolis. American filly Kaufymaker, trained by serial Ascot raider Wesley Ward, has caught the attention of bookmakers and punters too – and several other usual suspects are well represented by their latest speedy two-year-olds too, in a race sure to signpost the cream of the crop again.

Staying power is a must

Willie Mullins has won four of the last nine editions of the Ascot Stakes
Willie Mullins is a prolific winner of the Ascot Stakes (Niall Carson/PA)

Stamina will be much in evidence in the culmination of the Ascot Stakes, and will be a handy asset for spectators as well as participants by the time the fifth race of seven reaches its conclusion over two and a half miles. Punters hoping to stay the course all the way through to the getting-out Copper Horse Stakes at 6.10 may do worse than keep an eye on Willie Mullins’ contenders in both races. The record-breaking Cheltenham Festival trainer has already conquered one unlikely outpost on the Flat this year – when True Self won a huge prize in the Neom Turf Cup in Riyadh in February. Mullins has won four of the last nine runnings of the Ascot Stakes too.

Gosden alive to Ascot threats as Pier goes for Queen Anne gold

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.”

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

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.”

Order Of Australia is one of two runners for Aidan O'Brien
Order Of Australia is one of two runners for Aidan O’Brien (PA)

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.”

Palace Pier faces 10 rivals in hunt for Queen Anne gold

Hot favourite Palace Pier is set to face 10 rivals in the opening Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday.

The Kingman colt won a thrilling renewal of the St James’s Palace Stakes on the same card 12 months ago – and went on to double his Group One tally in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.

John and Thady Gosden’s stable star suffered defeat on his final start of 2020 when only third in the QEII at Ascot in October.

However, having bolted up on his return to action at Sandown before slamming his rivals in the Lockinge at Newbury last month, Palace Pier is odds-on to get Royal Ascot punters off to a flyer in the hands of Frankie Dettori.

Order of Australia runs for Aidan O'Brien
Order of Australia runs for Aidan O’Brien (PA)

Aidan O’Brien saddles both Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order Of Australia and Lope Y Fernandez. The latter needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort in the Lockinge on his latest appearance.

There are two previous winners of the Queen Anne in contention, with Eve Johnson Houghton’s shock 2018 scorer Accidental Agent and David O’Meara’s 2019 hero Lord Glitters both back for another shot.

Accidental Agent has not won since his Ascot triumph, but Johnson Houghton believes she has him back on form now.

Accidental Agent has not won since his Queen Anne success in 2018
Accidental Agent has not won since his Queen Anne success in 2018 (John Walton/PA)

She said: “He’s as well as I’ve had him since he won – I couldn’t be happier with him. We’ve all got Palace Pier to beat obviously, but I really think he could run a huge race.

“He had a lot of niggly problems, but we’ve worked everything out, and he’s had a lot of physio and a wind op.

“He’s really enjoying himself and he ran a huge race under a big weight at Newbury, where he wasn’t fit enough but I needed to get a run into him. I’m looking forward to it.”

Prince Eiji (yellow) was edged out by Oh This Is Us at Ascot
Prince Eiji (yellow) was edged out by Oh This Is Us at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Sir Michael Stoute’s Regal Reality and James Tate’s Lockinge third Top Rank also feature along with Prince Eiji (Roger Varian), Sir Busker (William Knight), Bless Him (David Simcock) and Pogo (Charlie Hills).

Prince Eiji was edged out by Oh This Is Us in a Listed race over course and distance on his reappearance and with the winner having subsequently struck Group Three gold at Epsom, big-race rider Andrea Atzeni is hoping he can make the frame in a race that forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series.

He said: “He’s a fast-ground horse, he likes Ascot and his homework has been good. Probably none of us can beat Palace Pier, but he’s a ride I’m looking forward to and I think he’ll run big.”

The only horse not declared from the confirmation stage is Tilsit.

Palace Pier tops Queen Anne contenders

Palace Pier will face a maximum of 11 rivals when he bids for back-to-back Group One victories at Royal Ascot in the Queen Anne Stakes.

John and Thady Gosden’s star miler won a thrilling renewal of the St James’s Palace Stakes last summer – and will be a hot favourite to double his tally in the race which opens next week’s showpiece meeting on Tuesday, having made an impressive start to his campaign in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

Circus Maximums provided Aidan O’Brien with a fourth Queen Anne success 12 months ago, and the Ballydoyle handler is once again likely to be represented – with both Lope Y Fernandez and Order Of Australia left in at the confirmation stage.

Lope Y Fernandez would need to bounce back from a disappointing effort in the Lockinge, while Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order Of Australia could make his first appearance since finishing sixth in Hong Kong in December.

There are two previous winners of the race in contention – in David O’Meara’s 2019 scorer Lord Glitters and Accidental Agent, who claimed a shock victory in 2018.

Charlie Hills’ pair of Pogo and Tilsit, and Top Rank from James Tate’s yard, also feature.

The Hills-trained Battaash is the star name among 16 sprinters confirmed for the King’s Stand Stakes.

The brilliant Battaash winning last year's King's Stand
The brilliant Battaash winning last year’s King’s Stand (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The seven-year-old finally broke his duck at Ascot when landing last year’s renewal, before going on to win his fourth King George Stakes at Goodwood and his second Nunthorpe at York.

An early-season setback has kept Battaash off the track so far this year, but he is closing in on a comeback.

His potential rivals include Roger Teal’s July Cup hero Oxted and Tim Easterby’s exciting three-year-old filly Winter Power, who could hardly have been more impressive at York on her latest outing.

John Quinn looks set to saddle both Liberty Beach and Keep Busy, while international interest is added by two American challengers in Extravagant Kid and Maven – who are trained by Brendan Walsh and Wesley Ward respectively.

James Bredin, racing manager for Extravagant Kid’s owner DARRS Inc, said: “Extravagant Kid is doing great. I flew out to Dubai to saddle him, and he looks the same now as he did then. He is eight years of age now, so he is a great traveller. I think the key to shipping a horse is that you have to keep them eating and drinking – and he has done all that.

“We opted for the King’s Stand Stakes because Ryan (Moore) felt the strong uphill finish over five furlongs would really suit him. It probably plays like a six-furlong race anyway, but if it turns out we have got it wrong, we will blame Ryan!

“His owner David Ross claimed him out of a race at Gulfstream three and a half years ago. In America, you put your claim slip in before the race is run, so you don’t really know how things are going to work out.

“The horse was 20-1 that day and it has turned out to be a very astute claim. Mr Ross is over here now, quarantining in London, and is really looking forward to having his first Royal Ascot runner.”

The third Group One on the opening day is the St James’s Palace Stakes, for which 15 colts have stood their ground.

Poetic Flare after winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket
Poetic Flare after winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket (John Walton/PA)

Jim Bolger’s Poetic Flare has already had a busy season – winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, sixth in the French Guineas and second in the Irish Guineas – but looks set to turn out again.

Mostahdaf could put his unbeaten record on the line for the Gosden team. He was last seen winning the Heron Stakes at Sandown by half a length – from the Charlie Appleby-trained Highland Avenue, who could renew rivalry.

Jessica Harrington’s Lucky Vega is a leading contender, after finishing third and fourth in the English and Irish Guineas respectively.

Aidan O’Brien has left in Battleground, Ontario and Wembley.

The first two-year-old race of the week is the prestigious Group Two Coventry Stakes.

A total of 29 juveniles have been entered – including Hugo Palmer’s dual winner Ebro River, the Ralph Beckett-trained Angel Bleu, Donnacha O’Brien’s Masseto and Ward’s Kaufymaker.

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?”