Palace Pier maintained his unbeaten record with a dominant display under Frankie Dettori in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.
John Gosden’s youngster made a huge impression on his racecourse debut at Sandown 12 months ago – but rather than being thrown in at the deep end, the son of Kingman won a minor novice event at the same venue before being packed up for his winter break.
Palace Pier’s seasonal reappearance in a handicap on the all-weather at Newcastle was similarly low-key, but he left nobody in any doubt about his ability at Royal Ascot as he got the better of Pinatubo with a performance of class and courage in the St James’s Palace Stakes.
Dettori opted to head for France, despite travel restrictions meaning he will need to quarantine for 14 days on his return to the UK, and he has since announced he will stay there for the Prix Morny next weekend.
While the Italian will therefore miss this week’s Ebor Festival at York, and further meetings once back in Britain, Palace Pier was a warm order to double his top-level tally and claim his fifth win from as many starts.
Dettori sat last for much of the straight-mile, and there must have been a few moments of worry for Palace Pier’s supporters when he came under pressure with a couple of furlongs still to run on the heavy ground.
However, the three-year-old responded generously to grab the lead before kicking clear for an ultimately emphatic win.
Jessica Harrington’s Coronation Stakes heroine Alpine Star was a clear three-quarter-length second, with fellow Irish challengers Circus Maximus and Romanised finishing third and fifth respectively for Aidan O’Brien and Ken Condon.
Gosden said: "I think it was pretty clear watching the race that he wasn't enjoying the ground. I saw Frankie moving his hands, and he was still fully 600 metres from home, but the horse showed a lot of guts and a lot of class.
"His main target will be the QEII on Champions Day at Ascot. Everything will revolve around that, although most importantly everything depends on how the horse feels once we get him back home."
Palace Pier's triumph completed an excellent weekend's work in France for the Gosden-Dettori axis, with French Derby hero Mishriff similarly impressive in Saturday's Prix Guillaume D'Ornano.
Reflecting on the Dettori's decision, Gosden said: "We sat down and discussed it, and I said to Frankie I thought both horses would take a lot of beating if the ground wasn't too bad, and obviously the prize money is so good."
Like Palace Pier, Mishriff could be also be in action on Champions Day in October.
Gosden added: "I was thrilled with him and I knew he'd be fine on the ground, because it was deep the day he won his maiden at Nottingham. He'd been training very well since the Prix du Jockey Club and he's stamped himself on the three-year-old division.
"We'll give it a good 10 days and discuss with the owner where we'll go with him. He looks almost tailor-made for the Champion Stakes, but we'll consider all the options."
Dettori told Sky Sports Racing: “I made the right choice to come. I knew I had two super horses, and they both won.
“I was very taken by this performance today. The ground was testing, that’s the best opposition he’s run against – and he just put it to bed in great style.
“I love the horse – he’s very cold, he’s got a good cruising speed and a good kick, and nothing fazes him.
“He’s only run five times, and I’m sure we can improve him a little bit. He’s a proper horse.”
There was further success for the raiding party in the Group Three Prix Minerve, with David Menuisier’s Wonderful Tonight causing a 20-1 upset under Tony Piccone.
Hot favourite Valia was best of the rest in second, with Dettori fourth aboard Aidan O’Brien’s Laburnum and the William Haggas-trained Born With Pride in fifth.
Menuisier said: “I am not surprised at all. We were second to Valia in a Listed race at ParisLongchamp a few weeks ago, and I felt on softer ground we could turn the form around – that’s what happened.
“I think we’ll probably go for the Prix Vermeille now and hope for the best. She’s not in the Arc, but if she were to win the Vermeille then we would have to think about it.”
Earlier in the day, Brian Meehan’s Jimmy Sparks finished last of five behind Tiger Tanaka in the Prix Francois Boutin.
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