Palace Pier The Star Turn At Sandown


Palace Pier | Scoop Dyga

   Arguably the most exciting older horse in training in Europe sets out on his keenly-anticipated 4-year-old campaign on Friday, as 'TDN Rising Star' Palace Pier (GB) (Kingman {GB}) takes in the G2 Sandown Mile. Escaping a penalty with his brace of Group 1 wins in the St James's Palace S. and Prix Jacques le Marois coming before the end of August, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum's still-unexposed bay had excuses when bogged down in Ascot's testing conditions but still managed a respectable third in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II S. on Champions Day. Thady Gosden said, “The plan was to go straight to the [G1] Lockinge, but we have decided to give Palace Pier a run at Sandown as he seems quite fresh at home. He lost a shoe coming out of the gate at Ascot on Champions Day. Although he had won on soft ground, the ground at Ascot was bottomless and it was a bit too deep. It was real specialist ground. He has been working nicely and he appears to be enjoying himself and he seems to have improved from three to four. I'm sure there will be some nice 3-year-old milers emerge, but hopefully he can be among the best of the older ones.”

On the face of it, Shadwell's Khuzaam (Kitten's Joy) appears the most likely to cause an upset, having powered to a five-length success in the Apr. 2 All-Weather Mile Championships Conditions S. on Lingfield's Polytrack. Angus Gold is aware of the task in hand, however. “He won very well the other day. We gelded him at the end of last year and it seems to have helped him from what we've seen so far this year, but obviously we're going up a grade now and we're back on the grass against a proper Group 1 horse, so it'll tell us a bit more about him and whether we're in the right league or not.”

Adding ballast to a small but select assembly is King Power Racing's G3 Supreme S. and G2 Challenge S. winner Happy Power (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}), who is back up in trip having raced exclusively over shorter last term.

High Quality Gordon Richards

Friday's card also features the G3 Gordon Richards S., where two more 'TDN Rising Stars', Highest Ground (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) and Waldkonig (GB) (Kingman {GB}), renew rivalry having been separated by 2 1/2 lengths when first and second in that order in an extended 10-furlong novice at Haydock last June. The Niarchos Family's Highest Ground, who was subsequently second to Highclere Thoroughbred Racing's Thunderous (Ire) (Night of Thunder {Ire}) in a weak-looking edition of the G2 Dante S. at York in July and a poor 10th in the nine-furlong G3 Darley S. at Newmarket in October, lacks the race-sharpness of Waldkonig who has won a handicap at Pontefract on Apr. 6.

Alan Cooper said of Highest Ground, “It's very exciting to get him back on the track. He's wintered very well and has been pleasing Sir Michael and Ryan. We felt he didn't handle the soft ground at all at Newmarket the last time he ran. The weather forecast is good, so we should have perfect ground on Friday. It's his first run for a long time and we'll see what happens. Hopefully he'll run a very good race. He's a lightly-raced horse who missed part of last year. It's a very nice race to start off the season in, so let's hope it's a nice introduction to get his season going.”

Thady Gosden is hoping for a bold show from Waldkonig, who has big shoes to fill as a half-brother to Waldgeist (GB) (Galileo {Ire}). “It was good to get him off to a good start this season at Pontefract, as it can be a difficult track to handle,” he said. “It was good to get his career back on track and give him some confidence. We have always thought plenty of him, as he is a half-brother to an Arc winner by Kingman, so he has got the right sort of pedigree and hopefully things will start coming right on track for him. He was always a horse we hoped would improve from three to four, but at the same time it was a bit of a frustrating season last year as things didn't go to plan.”

In a race for lightly-raced 4-year-olds who did not enjoy a full Classic campaign for various reasons, Charlie Johnston is hoping that Thunderous can defy a lengthy lay-off having been sidelined since the Dante. “Obviously he's a horse who still has a huge amount of potential and we've only managed to get to the track with him five times in his first two seasons, so we're just pleased to be back and looking forward to it really,” he said. “We're 100% happy in terms of the injuries–there are no concerns there whatsoever. He's been back in full work since before Christmas and I would fully expect him to improve for the run. He's not run any further than the Dante trip at this stage, so we thought this ticks a lot of boxes as a comeback race and then we can learn a bit from this and hopefully build and go forward to even bigger and better things down the line.”

Shadwell's G3 Geoffrey Freer S. winner Hukum (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) has the form edge over them all, having contested a genuine top-class race when fifth in Doncaster's G1 St Leger when last seen in September. “Everyone's been very happy with him at home and it's time to get started with him and see where we are,” Angus Gold commented. “The decision last year was always based on 'was he going to stay?' and he looked like he was certainly going to be a mile-and-a-half horse. We knew he had the class for that and it was just a question of whether he could stay further. I think now is the right place to start him back, with a view to the fact that we've got Ascot coming up, so let's see if we're on the right lines. I saw him last week and he looks fantastic.”

Classic Credentials On The Line

Completing the trio of pattern races on the card is the G3 Classic Trial, where Charlie Appleby looks to extend Godolphin's seam of success with the middle-distance colts courtesy of Yibir (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) and Adayar (Ire) (Frankel {GB}). Reappearing for the first time after winning Newbury's Haynes, Hanson & Clark Conditions S. over a mile in September, Yibir is a full-brother to the top-class Wild Illusion (GB) while his impressive Nottingham maiden-winning stablemate is a son of the G1 Irish 1000 Guineas runner-up Anna Salai (Dubawi {Ire}). “His preparation has gone well and we feel he's hopefully one of our nicer middle distance horses, so we're expecting a nice run from him,” the trainer said of Yibir, while of Adayar he added, “It was a very pleasing victory at Nottingham on his second start and he's done well through the winter. He's drawn down in stall one, which isn't ideal, but it all depends on the pace angles really. We're hopeful that they're two nice middle-distance horses that can start their 3-year-old careers off and we'll see where we're pitching them in the first half of the season after Friday.”

Godolphin have a third string to their bow in the John and Thady Gosden-trained Trawlerman (Ire) (Golden Horn {GB}) who was impressive when winning the 12-furlong “High-Rise” Maiden S. by 8 1/2 lengths at Pontefract on Apr. 6, while Ballylinch Stud and Aquis Farm's G3 Zetland S. scorer Lone Eagle (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and Julie Wood's G3 Solario S. winner Etonian (Ire) (Olympic Glory {Ire}) add intrigue, as does Ballydoyle's Cork median auction winner Sir Lucan (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) who is a full-brother to Sir Dragonet (Ire) and the unbeaten Belloccio (Fr) (Belardo {Ire}). Having dealt with the subsequent G3 Prix de la Grotte winner Cirona (GB) (Maxios {GB}) in the Listed Criterium du Languedoc over a mile at Toulouse in November, the David Menuisier trainee fully deserves his place in this hot line-up.

“He's in good form–obviously that will be his first run of the season, so he's likely to need it like the rest of my horses but physically and mentally he's in a good place,” Menuisier said. “He's unbeaten in two starts and both races have worked out really well, so we're really hopeful that he can show a very good level of ability and let's hope that Friday will be a stepping stone to something better down the line.” Also on the card is the Esher Cup H. over a mile with an unexposed Gosden-trained colt in the Coolmore-owned Kempton novice winner Rifleman (Ire) (The Gurkha {Ire}) and the closing two races over the Gordon Richards and Classic Trial trip over nearly 10 furlongs.

Spotlight On Chiasma

Finishing off a fascinating fixture is the Handicap, which was won by the subsequent G1 Irish Derby hero Jack Hobbs (GB) (Halling) in 2015, while the bet365 Fillies' Novice S. has hosted more than one 'TDN Rising Star' down the years including the 2008 winner Dar Re Mi (GB) (Singspiel {Ire}). In that, the Gosdens launch Juddmonte's Chiasma (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), a full-sister to Frankel (GB) and Noble Mission (GB) who takes on Godolphin's Lingfield novice winner Nash Nasha (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), a Charlie Appleby-trained daughter of the G1 Irish 1000 Guineas heroine Just the Judge (Ire) (Lawman {Fr}).

Juddmonte's racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe spoke to the Racing Post of Chiasma, “Indications are she could be suited by this trip, possibly even a mile and a half. She's been very straightforward this spring, but it remains to be seen what sort of talent she has. The weight of expectation with a horse like her will always be enormous and she has a lot to live up to, to say the least, but she needs to be given every chance. Prince Khalid's family have the same sporting instinct as their father had and these horses are bred to race. You find out how good they are only on the racecourse; breeding operations need to know the level of ability. We're looking forward to it and everyone at Juddmonte will be watching, plus a whole load more people besides.”

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