Hugo Palmer’s superb season continued as his 2,000 Guineas hero Galileo Gold laid claim to being the best three-year-old colt in Europe by winning the St James’s Palace Stakes, one of three Group 1s on the opening day of Royal Ascot.
After breaking from the outside draw, Frankie Dettori decided to ride a positive race and quickly settled Galileo Gold in second behind Godolphin’s pacemaker, Cymric. Turning into the straight the Italian wasted little time in kicking for home.The move proved decisive and Galileo Gold held off the late challenges of the French and Irish Guineas winners, The Gurkha and Awtaad.
The son of Paco Boy had undergone the gene test following his Classic victory seven weeks ago, which ruled him out of a tilt at the Derby. This prompted connections to target their colt at the Irish Guineas where he finished behind Awtaad before the obvious next step to Royal Ascot. It is a decision that has paid dividends.
For Dettori, who partnered the colt on his previous four starts, it was a second St James’s Palace Stakes victory following on from Starborough, winner of the contest for David Loder in 1997.
“Hugo was ultra-nervous today and he made me feel nervous too,” said Dettori. “We had a few excuses in Ireland. There was nowhere to hide today and he redeemed himself.”
Palmer enjoying his first Royal Ascot winner, said: “Life didn’t go well for him in Ireland, it went much better today. He got the most magnificent ride from the widest draw.
“I think it’s fair to say he is the best three-year-old colt in Europe.”
I think it’s fair to say he is the best three-year-old colt in Europe
Day one began with the Queen Anne Stakes in a rather damp and dreary scene, as rain continued to fall as it had done over the past week. This meant that the course was riding at its softest since 1971.
Won in recent years by the likes of Solow, Declaration of War and the mighty Frankel, the American mare Tepin powered on in a slow motion finish to repel the challenge of Godolphin’s Belardo. The doubt about the transatlantic challenger going into the race was whether she would cope with the conditions, as much of her winning had come on firm ground.
Her seven length victory in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes in Keeneland in October on soft ground offered connections hope and she duly delivered under American-based French jockey, Julien Leparoux.
In the Coventry Stakes for two-year-olds, Caravaggio showed an impressive change of gear and, despite drifting across the track, won snugly by two lengths under Ryan Moore for Ballydoyle maestro Aidan O’Brien.
The most emotional success of the day came in King’s Stand Stakes. The consistent Clive Cox-trained four-year-old Profitable made it three from three this season and showed determination to hold off the surge of outsider Cotai Glory. For jockey Adam Kirby, the success meant a great deal, given his son had been born earlier in the day. His emotions were clearly visible.
“He is the best five furlong horse I’ve ever ridden. His cruising speed is phenomenal,” said Kirby. “I’m delighted for everyone, [owner] Alan Spence and I’m delighted for Clive.”
The Irish got their second success of the meeting when Jarlath Fahey’s gritty dual-purpose mare, Jennies Jewel, bounced out and made all under Ronan Whelan in the 2m4f Ascot Stakes. The closing Listed Windsor Castle Stakes for two-year-olds saw John Gosden hit the scoreboard as 20-1 chance Ardad ran out a comfortable winner under Robert Havlin, who was savouring his first triumph at the Royal meeting.