Second-season sire Palace Pier ready to live up to great expectations

Early foals on the ground augur well as five-time G1-winning miler embarks on second season as Darley stallion at Dalham Hall in Newmarket – as Nancy Sexton reports in the Thoroughbred Racing Commentary

Palace Pier’s miling brilliance was defined by a number of moments, ranging from any one of his five G1 wins to an eight-length victory in G2 company.

But perhaps the ultimate compliment were the words uttered by regular partner Frankie Dettori in the aftermath of his G1 Lockinge Stakes win. Onlookers were keen to know following his bloodless success where the champion jockey ranked Palace Pier in his pantheon of greats: “He could be the best miler I've ridden, yes,” came the answer.

Palace Pier’s body of work – a dual European champion who won 11 of 13 starts for John & Thady Gosden – places him as one of the best milers of the recent era. He also possesses a highly desirable pedigree and the good looks to befit his 600,000gns yearling price tag.

In all, he ranks as one of the most exciting young stallions in Europe at Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket, where he is about to commence his second season at a fee of £50,000.

Into the spotlight

This wasn’t a horse who crept into the spotlight. Such was Palace Pier’s home reputation that the Kingman colt commanded attention straightaway, beginning with a facile debut victory as the 11-8 favourite at Sandown in the August of his two-year-old campaign. Palace Pier was introduced into 16-1 for the 2,000 Guineas following that win, which was subsequently backed up by a similarly impressive novice score back at Sandown the following month.

As it turned out, a setback ruled Palace Pier out of any G1 two-year-old engagements while the arrival of Covid the following spring scuppered the opportunity of a tune-up ahead of the 2,000 Guineas.As such, it was decided he would bypass the 2,000 Guineas, although he was back in action on Guineas afternoon itself up at Newcastle when making a winning return in a mile handicap.

Although yet to tackle a stakes race by that stage, there was the constant expectation that this was a potential G1 horse, and once unleashed in such company, Palace Pier answered that question in emphatic style.

Sent to Royal Ascot for the G1 St James’s Palace Stakes, he swooped to deny champion two-year-old Pinatubo. It was a seamless transition to the top level and was followed by a similarly dominant display in the G1 Prix Jacques le Marois, in which he overcame heavy ground to account for an array of G1 performers including the French and Irish Guineas winners Persian King and Romanised.

Far from disgraced

Although his unbeaten sequence came to an end in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, it transpired that he had lost a front shoe during the race, and in the circumstances he was far from disgraced in third behind The Revenant.

It was said that Palace Pier was only 80 per cent fit when he returned in the G2 bet365 Mile at four, yet he went on to win by eight lengths. The G1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury followed and once again, he dominated his rivals to prove himself the best miler in Europe. “He went whoosh and just took off,” commented Dettori after the race.

The programme for the rest of the season duly fell into place. Newbury was followed by a similarly no-nonsense win in the G1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot before a return to Deauville for the G1 Prix Jacques le Marois, where he successfully defended his title at the expense of that year’s 2,000 Guineas winner Poetic Flare despite having missed some work due to a blood disorder.

All roads led to a clash with the emerging star Baaeed in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. Palace Pier was unable to bring down that younger rival on the day but it was an excellent run nevertheless, with the horse falling only a neck short of the winner.

It was inevitable that Palace Pier would draw comparisons with his sire Kingman throughout his career. Both were exceptional milers gifted with a high cruising speed and powerful turn of foot capable of being deployed on a range of grounds. Both also struck in the St James’s Palace Stakes and Prix Jacques le Marois – as a multiple winner of the latter, Palace Pier joined a select group that consisted of Miesque and Spinning World, two other brilliant milers.

‘Gorgeous horse’

“He's a gorgeous horse,” commented John Gosden following the horse’s win in the Queen Anne. “He's the same as his father [Kingman], he can go on any ground, he's got plenty of scope and he's a pleasure to be around.”

Palace Pier is one of six G1 winners by Kingman, now well established as one of Europe’s leading sires, and was bred by Highclere Stud and Floors Farming out of Beach Frolic, a Nayef half-sister to the G2 winners Joviality and Bonfire.

Highclere and Floors bought into this family with the purchase of his third dam Miss d’Ouilly in 2000 but it also remains a recognisable Jean-Luc Lagardere line, one which previously came to prominence thanks to the achievements of another Marois winner in Miss Satamixa.

A first book of close to 160 mares belonging to some of the world’s top breeders went the way of Palace Pier at a first-year fee of £55,000 in 2022.

Between them, Godolphin and Rabbah Bloodstock sent around 40 to the horse (among them the dams of G1 winners Farhh, Avilius and Dream Castle). They were joined by the likes of Shadwell, the Aga Khan Studs, Peter Brant, Kincorth Investments (sent G1 winner Great Heavens, a sister to Nathaniel), Airlie Stud (G1 producer Dane Street), John Camilleri, Gestut Ammerland, Katsumi Yoshida (G1 Prix Saint-Alary winner Incarville), Meon Valley Stud (G1 winner Speedy Boarding), Cheveley Park Stud (G1 winner Integral), Mike and Michelle Morris (G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes winner Intricately), Shadai Farm (G1 winner Minorette), the Niarchos family, Hascombe and Valiant (Rhadegunda, the dam of Cracksman), Pursuit Of Success (G1 winner Ribbons), Juddmonte (G2 winner Riposte, a relation to Frankel), Moyglare Stud Farm and the Queen (sent her multiple stakes producer Memory).

Hot commodity

Unsurprisingly, mares in-foal to Palace Pier were also a hot commodity at last year’s breeding stock sales, selling for up to 450,000gns (Crystal Starlet, who sold to Hurworth Bloodstock) and averaging close to 260,000gns at the Tattersalls December Sale.

For any young stallion, there are always numerous hurdles to clear but so far, the first foals to arrive are showcasing his prospects in a good light.

The first to arrive was a colt out of of the Dubawi mare Tanaaghom, born on January 21. From the family of G1 winners Mehthaaf and Elnadim, he was described as “a good foal, with a nice head and good shape and colour”.

‘Charming filly’: the winning Kodiac mare Breath Of Joy produced a Palace Pier foal in early February for Imad Alsagar’s Blue Diamond Stud. 

The winning Kodiac mare Breath Of Joy foaled a “charming filly” in early February for Imad Alsagar’s Blue Diamond Stud, which plan to send two mares back to the horse this season in Najeeba, a winning daughter of Dansili, and G3 winner Sweet Gentle Kiss.

‘Very, very happy’

Particularly pleased with their arrival is Al Shira’aa Farms, whose breeding operation is based at Meadow Court Stud in County Kildare. Managed by Kieran Lalor on behalf of Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the farm has welcomed a filly out of the Listed-placed Animal Fever, an Animal Kingdom relation to Kentucky Derby hero and sire Fusaichi Pegasus.

"We are very, very happy with Animal Fever’s first foal by Palace Pier,” says Lalor. “She clocked in at 118lbs, she is correct, has plenty of size, substance and has a very confident mindset about her already.

"We are big fans of Palace Pier – he was a top-class racehorse, is flawless physically and we will be sending two more mares back to him in 2023.”

His views on Palace Pier himself are echoed by Harriet Loder of Marwell Park Stud. Her mare, G1 producer Concordia, was due to foal imminently at the time of writing.

“I’m a big fan of using St James’s Palace Stakes winners so it’s a great addition to the stud to have a mare in-foal to Palace Pier,” she says. “Considering how well his sire Kingman is going, and the fact that he won the same G1 race as him makes him a very exciting prospect.”

In Newmarket, several prominent operations also like what they see. They include Adrian and Philippa O’Brien’s Hazelwood Bloodstock, which has foaled two Palace Pier youngsters so far.

‘Plenty of everything’

“We have a big, strong, 65kg colt out of a Dark Angel mare,” says Adrian O’Brien. “He has plenty of everything – size, scope, bone and good limbs. He’s a very attractive colt with a lot of presence and a distinctive white blaze.

“And we also have a 60kg filly from a mare by Dubawi. She has lots of size and scope with good angles. She’s a rich bay in colour with a white star.”

Meanwhile, over at Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud last week featured the arrival of a bay filly out of Stirring Ballad, a Listed-placed Compton Place half-sister to G1 Coronation Stakes winner Balisada.

“She’s a good, strong filly,” says Eddie O’Leary. “She has a lot of quality but also plenty of strength and action to go with it. We’re very pleased with her.”

Early days it might be. Yet it seems that Palace Pier is now doing at stud what he did on the track, living up to expectations with immediacy and also generating some excitement along the way.