It's a seaside showdown in the Marois as Palace Pier defends unbeaten record
Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques le Marois (Group 1) | 1m | 3yo+ (no geldings) | SKY
With the caveat that Ghaiyyath versus Kameko might change things at York on Wednesday, the milers have been the saviours of the European racing season so far. The Sussex lived up to its billing, Pinatubo looms large once more after his Prix Jean Prat win and now, in the Prix Jacques le Marois, the latter's Ascot conqueror gets to stake his own claim.
Some fancy Palace Pier to be the best miler around already. There was certainly no reason to question his authority in the St James's Palace, when he came through to win readily off a solid pace. Although he is rated 5lb behind Mohaather, to do what he did at Ascot on just his fourth start suggests that his fans are not asking for the earth.
The question here is whether Deauville's straight mile will provide the right conditions. It is necessarily difficult with such an inexperienced horse. All that can be said with any confidence is that it will be different. It is not hard to see a fairly muddling race panning out.
Circus Maximus got a sound ride on the front in the Sussex and is surely no better than he showed that day, but he might be able to pull the same trick once more as there is a lack of likely competition. Christophe Soumillon is known for his patience, but he pulls tricks on the front more often than his reputation would suggest. The rain that has hit Normandy in recent days only makes an easy lead all the more attractive.
The main danger to Palace Pier on form is Persian King. The only three defeats of his career have all been forgivable, but at the same time the wins have not always dazzled. For instance, he took the d'Ispahan easily last time, but in second was seven-year-old Stormy Antarctic.
The other two to mention are the Irish-trained pair of Alpine Star and Romanised. The former was just as impressive as Palace Pier when winning the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and found only Fancy Blue too strong in the Diane. She needed a strong gallop in the Coronation and suspicion remains that a muddling mile would not suit her.
What sets last year's winner Romanised apart is that his best form has not been allied with good times. He swept from the back to win this race last year and was presented before Circus Maximus when the latter picked his pocket in last year's Prix du Moulin.
Normally not boasting good times would be a drawback, but with the potential this race has to become tactical Romanised's ability to quicken, while the others have mostly excelled only after the early pace sorted them out, makes him interesting.
Keith Melrose, betting editor
Dettori rolls the dice with Palace Pier
You have to be in it to win it and Frankie Dettori has revealed his gambler's side in betting the house on two high-class rides at Deauville over a week's good sport at York.
Undoubtedly a win for Palace Pier in one of the traditional highlights of the European year over a mile would go a long way to seeing him emerge on the right side of the deal and, to judge by the words of John Gosden, this day and this race has been uppermost in both men's minds for some time.
"As soon as he walked in after winning the St James's Palace, I was talking to Frankie coming through the tunnel at Ascot and I said the race that will suit him is the Jacques le Marois," said Gosden.
Palace Pier's position at the top of the betting in what looks a very high-grade renewal of the Marois is down to the way he picked up Pinatubo and Wichita at Ascot, while Dettori's decision to suffer quarantine on his return to the UK in order to ride him will have been taken as further proof of the colt's wellbeing.
"The stiff mile at Ascot suited him and the mile here at Deauville takes getting too," said Gosden. "He's a horse that probably won't have any problem getting a mile and a quarter in time."
Those expected reserves of extra stamina may well be tested on rain-sodden ground, while with Alpine Star and Circus Maximus also lining up, we have the reunion of all three Group 1 mile winners at Royal Ascot. Also lining up is defending champion Romanised and Persian King, who represents Andre Fabre with the trainer already boasting a record-equalling seven wins in this race.
What can't be denied is that, off this year's unprecedented short run-up, Palace Pier was part of a Gosden wave at Royal Ascot. That much is demonstrated by a record of six winners, a second and a third across the 12 Group races in which the stable was represented.
As deep as it gets at Deauville
The sweltering heatwave on the Normandy coast has broken in the most spectacular fashion over the second half of this week, with 100mm of rain falling between Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning, and more forecast before racing on Sunday.
The penetrometer has moved through the full spectrum in that time from good (3.2) to heavy (4.8). To put that in context, ahead of a notoriously soggy 2014 success, Gosden walked the course every day from Friday to Sunday before the rain-averse Kingman scored a famous victory on ground officially described as soft (3.5-3.7).
What they say
Pascal Bary, trainer of Pretreville
He's won a Group 3 and was second in a Group 2 so I don't have a lot of options in terms of where to run. He is very well and so we'll give it a try, knowing full well it's a tough ask. He won a Listed race last year on very soft ground and, although that was at a completely different level, I don't think it will be a big problem for him.
Andre Fabre, trainer of Persian King
The ground shouldn't be a problem for him and everything has gone well since the Prix d'Ispahan. He’s had no issues. It's a big prize but there are more candidates [than just him].
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Circus Maximus
He’s a tough, hardy horse who takes anything we throw at him. He won his maiden on heavy ground and there was an ease when he won the St James's Palace Stakes at Ascot too, so we hope he will cope with the conditions. He’s come out of Goodwood in good shape and we’re very happy with him.
Ken Condon, trainer of Romanised
We're going to let him take his chance but we have serious reservations about the ground. This has been the long-term plan for him all along and, unfortunately, the weather is one of those variables you just cannot control. He's a mature horse now and hopefully he can cope with these conditions better than he used to. The horse is in very good condition and we were very happy with his comeback run.
Alex Pantall, trainer of Restiany
He is very well and everything has gone well. The ground is a little bit of an unknown for him and it's a tad audacious running him in this race but you have to try.
Jessica Harrington, trainer of Alpine Star
The ground won't bother us at all, she'll be fine on it. She's a lovely filly and I've been very pleased with her since her Prix de Diane run. She is back to a mile now and everything is good with her.
Reporting by Scott Burton
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