Sunday’s Prix Jacques le Marois (G1) at Deauville served up the stiffest test so far for unbeaten sophomore Palace Pier, but the John Gosden colt justified favoritism in this “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
Hero of the St James’s Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot in his stakes debut, Palace Pier was stepping up to face older horses for the first time, including such elite milers as Circus Maximus, Persian King, and defending champion Romanised. Further intrigue was furnished by 3-year-old filly Alpine Star, half-sister to Alpha Centauri who captured the 2018 running.
But the greatest degree of uncertainty was the heavy ground. Palace Pier hadn’t encountered anything worse than good-to-soft. Although pedigree offered reassurance, notably that his sire Kingman answered the same question in convincing fashion, he still had to answer for himself.
Regular rider Frankie Dettori preferred to miss York’s Ebor Festival this upcoming week, due to quarantine protocols for those returning from France, than to miss out on Deauville this weekend. Palace Pier made the trade-off worthwhile, as did stablemate Mishriff, who rolled in Saturday’s Prix Guillaume d’Ornano (G2).
Anchored at the rear early, Palace Pier began to improve after the halfway stage. Up front, outsider Pretreville was leading Circus Maximus, with Alpine Star and Persian King tracking in the next flight. As Palace Pier ranged up, the principals were all massing in line, but the formation didn’t last long.
The sophomores pulled right away from their elders, and Palace Pier drove clear of Alpine Star. The filly switched around to take a final run at him, gamely reducing the margin to three-quarters of a length, but Palace Pier was in command.
Five lengths adrift in third came Circus Maximus, who’d already booked his Breeders’ Cup Mile ticket in the Queen Anne (G1) at Royal Ascot. Persian King was another three lengths back in fourth, followed by Romanised, Pretreville, and longshot Restiany.
By finishing the metric mile in 1:38.06, Palace Pier extended his record to 5-for-5. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed al Maktoum’s colorbearer emerged as an exciting juvenile when winning both starts at Sandown last season, only to be sidelined before the marquee fall events. Once British racing resumed from its COVID hiatus, Gosden opted to go the low-key route for his reappearance. Palace Pier responded with a dominant display in a Newcastle handicap that set him up for the St James’s Palace.
Although he didn’t have the opportunity to emulate his sire’s earlier exploits, Palace Pier has now accomplished Kingman’s St James’s Palace/Marois double. Kingman’s conquest of the 2014 Marois turned out to be his final start, so hopefully Palace Pier can pursue the end-of-season prizes that his sire missed.
Gosden indicated that his key objective is the Queen Elizabeth II (G1) on Champions Day, Oct. 17. It remains to be seen whether Palace Pier would then entertain a trek to Keeneland for the Breeders’ Cup three weeks later.
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 unraced Beach Frolic, is a Nayef half-sister to Group 2 winners Joviality and Bonfire from the further family of multiple Group 1 near-misser Karen’s Caper.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) August 16, 2020