Posts

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.