Champion miler Palace Pier overcame a couple of different challenges to score a rare repeat in Sunday’s Prix Jacques le Marois (G1) at Deauville, a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
The John and Thady Gosden trainee missed training time recently when his bloodwork was off, leaving him short of fitness for his title defense. And he had to concede six pounds to the division’s leading three-year-old colt, Poetic Flare. But Palace Pier passed both tests, prompting jockey Frankie Dettori to proclaim him as the best miler he’s ridden in his legendary career.
Last seen landing the June 15 Queen Anne (G1) at Royal Ascot, also a Breeders’ Cup Challenge event, Palace Pier was sent off as the 7-10 favorite here. The son of Kingman, himself a Marois hero in 2014, drafted just behind the pace on the outer flank of the field.
Reigning Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order of Australia argued the pace along with the filly Alpine Star, last year’s Marois runner-up. Poetic Flare was also prominent on the inside, while Victor Ludorum took up a forward position on the outer wing.
Order of Australia began to assert from Alpine Star, only to have Poetic Flare serve it up to him. Then Palace Pier deployed his acceleration to overtake them all. The hardy Poetic Flare wasn’t finished, however. Offering one last lunge, the sophomore came within a neck of Palace Pier, but the defending champion had found enough to prevail.
Another 1 3/4 lengths back in third came Order of Australia, followed by Midtown, Chindit, Ecrivain, Victor Ludorum, and the tailed-off Alpine Star.
Clocking the metric mile on a good course in 1:35.96, Palace Pier emulated the great Miesque (1987-88) and Spinning World (1996-97) as a two-time Marois winner. His predecessors also took Breeders’ Cup laurels, Miesque twice and Spinning World in 1997. Whether Del Mar is on Palace Pier’s agenda remains to be determined.
John Gosden commented on the race and his suboptimal preparation:
“I thought it was a very clean race. They went a sensible pace. They quickened from 600 meters out and so it was a test of speed and he’s done it well. He’s a gorgeous and lovely horse to be around. He’s got this amazing cruising speed and acceleration.
“I’ve made no secret that he was ill. He had a blood disorder and missed the July 28 Sussex S. (G1) and we’ve come here on the absolute minimum amount of work. He’s probably come here at 80%, and as Frankie (Dettori) said, his class has got him through. He’s having a strong blow after, so he was probably 10 days short of work, but they weren’t going to move the Jacques le Marois!”
Champions Day at Ascot Oct. 16 is next on the itinerary, but Gosden has a choice of targets. Palace Pier could try to atone for his lone career loss in last year’s Queen Elizabeth II S. (G1), where he got off to a tardy start, threw a shoe, and wound up third. Yet a step up in trip for the Champion S. (G1) is another option.
“We’ll now wait until Champions Day,” the horseman said, “and go either for the one-mile Queen Elizabeth II S. or perhaps the 1 1/4-mile Champion S.”
Gosden would not be lured into discussion of the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup.
“November is a long way off! Del Mar is a track I’m very fond of, and I had a lot of success there and have a lot of good friends there, but that’s a long way down the road at the moment.”
Considering the three-week turnaround from his definite Champions Day appearance, and the projected firm surface at Del Mar, Palace Pier might not be all that likely to take up his free tickets to the Mile.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed al Maktoum’s colorbearer is now 9-for-10 lifetime. Aside from his Marois trophies, he’s captured the 2020 St James’s Palace S. (G1) and this season’s Queen Anne, Lockinge S. (G1), and Sandown Mile (G2).
Bred by Highclere Stud and Floors Farming in Great Britain, Palace Pier sold for 600,000 guineas as a Tattersalls October yearling. His dam, the Nayef mare Beach Frolic, is a half-sister to Group 2 winners Joviality and Bonfire. This productive family just added another Group scorer to the page courtesy of Passion and Glory in the July 30 Glorious S. (G3) at Goodwood.