Palace Pier justified odds-on favouritism in the Queen Anne Stakes to get Royal Ascot 2021 off to a perfect start for Frankie Dettori.
Winner of the St James's Palace Stakes at the meeting 12 months ago in front of empty grandstands, John and Thady Gosden’s brilliant miler followed up in front of a crowd of 12,000 this time.
Racing slightly on the flank in the early stages, Dettori managed to get some cover behind Prince Eiji by halfway.
Entering the final two furlongs, those who took the prohibitive 2-7 price about Palace Pier might have been a little concerned as Dettori got lower in the saddle to ask for his effort.
But while the winning move was not immediate, Palace Pier got into top gear with a furlong to run – and the race was over as he took two lengths out of the others.
He just had to be kept up to his work as Lope Y Fernandez emerged from the pack to claim second, a length and a half away, with Ascot specialist Sir Busker back in third.
Palace Pier’s only defeat remains on Champions Day last year at Ascot in the Queen Elizabeth II – when he lost a shoe in heavy ground.
Arguably the best miler in the world Palace Pier shows his class despite the slow pace to win the Queen Anne Stakes under @FrankieDettori - earning a free pass to the @BreedersCup at @DelMarRacing pic.twitter.com/nUicQoDAW5— Ascot Racecourse (@Ascot) June 15, 2021
Dettori said: "There wasn’t much pace in the race and I had him much further forward than usual.
"I stalked the pace, I had the leaders beat with a furlong and a half to go and then he went a couple of lengths clear and he took it easy with me.
"It was his first time on real good to firm ground, so he wasn’t so sure on it – but still, he proved again he’s the best miler around. He was in front on his own for a while, so he was taking things easy.
"He did (stumble just after the line). He’s quite clumsy with his feet – he’s forever losing his shoes and things like that, but when he goes fast he’s all right.
"It’s a pressure ride, the first one (of the meeting) – you want everything to go right, and it did."
He added: "This was my first Royal Ascot winner in 1990, this race (Markofdistinction), and it’s great to get a win for John and Thady.
"He was a fresh horse, he is one of the best horses in the world so you want everything to go right and we can breathe a little bit now!
"At the moment there’s no need to change his trip. You can rely on him, he’s like picking one of the best players in the team to take a penalty first in a shootout.
"It’s great people are back here, it’s like a mirage – there’s nothing better than Ascot with people."
Gosden senior said: "We suspected a slow pace and we got that slow pace, so the key thing then is don’t sit out the back. He did it smoothly, came through and won his race, but he’s exactly like his father (Kingman) – as soon as he gets there he thinks he’s done enough.
"If I worked him at home with an ordinary horse he’d just stay with him, that’s his game.
"When you are odds-on like that there’d be something wrong if you weren’t nervous, but it can be a banana skin. Frankie was aware there was no pace so he asserted early, then I noticed he was just hands and heels to keep him going.
"He’s probably done more in a piece of work at home than today.
"I’ve been second in this race three times, but that’s my first win – it obviously took Thady to get me over the line!"
Looking to the future, the Clarehaven handler said: "You could go up in trip with him, as you can see how relaxed he is. He is in the Juddmonte, but he’s also in the Sussex and the Prix Jacques le Marois, so I’ll talk to the owner and see.
"All the races are options, he’d have no trouble with the trip if they decide to go there."