Royal Ascot, day 1: All eyes on Palace Pier and Frankie Dettori

JOHN Gosden fully expects Palace Pier to reaffirm his status as British racing’s pre-eminent miler in the Queen Anne Stakes – Royal Ascot’s traditional curtain-raiser.

This was Palace Pier winning at Royal Ascot last year under Frankie Dettori.

Frankie Dettori’s mount is, arguably, the hottest favourite for this Group One since Frankel turned it into a one-horse race in 2012.

More recently, Ribchester prevailed for Malton’s Richard Fahey in 2017 while the grey Lord Glitters, victorious in 2019 for Upper Helmsley-based David O’Meara, will attempt to roll back the years.

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But Palace Pier won the St James’s Stakes for three-year-old colts at last year’s Royal meeting and was a nonchalant winner of last month’s Group One Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

Champion trainer John Gosden.

Victory for Palace Pier would also be a first for Gosden since his son Thady was added to the training licence. “He’s a lovely horse and has done everything right in his life,” said Gosden senior.

“He only missed the autumn of his two-year-old career – then we were planning the Greenham last year, but naturally it didn’t take place with lockdown.

“He prepped in a Newcastle race – I wasn’t going to run him blind in a Guineas, because he hadn’t had the racing, but he then came out and won the St James’s Palace.

“It’s been a strange Spring. It was incredibly cold, then incredibly wet. So it’s been eccentric, (and) finally we’re getting summer ground for Ascot – which is fantastic.”

Gosden is the first to concede that his stable is having to rely upon his older horses at this year’s Royal Ascot because his three-year-olds are simply not good enough.

As well as Palace Pier, he saddles Lord North in tomorrow’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes – the colt was imperious when winning the Dubai Turf in April – before Stradivarius seeks a fourth successive Ascot Gold Cup on Thursday.

It would, in fact, be a fifth consecutive win at the Royal meeting because Stradivarius won the 2017 Queen’s Vase as a three-year-od before going on to monopolise the stayers’ division.

“This boy is an absolute riot to be around – he’s very entertaining and has a great personality,” added Gosden. “I tend to just let him enjoy himself – and as long as he is, that’s all the matters.

“You have to get him out early in the morning or he complains – he likes to be first out. When he sees the other strings he shouts and roars – he particularly seems to like the blue of Godolphin, which causes him to shout even more. He’s incredibly fun to be around and is like part of the family now.”