Thursday, 18th Jun 2020
All-conquering Irish handler Aidan O’Brien has won the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes a record eight times, so Wichita looks to hold leading claims of providing him with another winner in the 1m contest for three-year-old colts at Royal Ascot on Saturday (15:00).
This son of No Nay Never showed improved form in each of his four starts as a juvenile, winning twice and posting some solid efforts in defeat.
The last of those successes came in the Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket, where Wichita took up the running a furlong from home and shot clear to slam Persuasion by seven lengths.
That earned him a crack at the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes over 7f at the same venue and he ran very well to finish a 4 3/4 lengths third to Pinatubo.
Having raced too keenly in the early stages, he kept on nicely at the death without being unduly knocked about.
It was a performance which suggested Wichita would come into his own as a three-year-old once strengthened up. That view was confirmed when he finished a cracking second to Kameko in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket earlier in the month.
After being produced to lead inside the final furlong and looking the likely winner, Wichita got collared close home to go down all guns blazing by a neck.
He finished a length in front of the red-hot favourite Pinatubo, who led at the furlong marker and had every chance, so there is no reason why he should not confirm the form with that re-opposing rival.
The yard is also in good form and has been among the winners at this meeting, so odds of 2/1 with Unibet about Wichita make plenty of appeal here.
There appeared to be no excuses for the aforementioned Pinatubo when sent off odds-on for the 2000 Guineas, but he is entitled to come on for that outing. It’s too early to say that last year’s star juvenile won’t win races at the highest level as a three-year-old.
This Charlie Appleby trained son of Shamardal, who carries the famous all blue colours of leading owners Godolphin, looked a superstar in the making last season when winning all six of his starts.
The last two of those came at Group 1 level. In the first at The Curragh, Pinatubo put in a sensational display when romping to a facile nine-length success over Armory in the Vincent O’Brien National Stakes.
He then readily accounted for Arizona by two lengths in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket – the leading trial for the 2000 Guineas.
Pinatubo was given an official rating of 128 at the end of his juvenile campaign, making him the best juvenile since Celtic Swing achieved a figure of 130 in 1994.
He has been dropped to 126 after his third in the Classic, but is still rated 8lb superior to Wichita by the official assessor.
It very much makes Pinatubo the one to beat on ratings, but it is arguable as to whether he has the same scope as Wichita and entitled to narrowly be favourite over that rival at 15/8 with Betway.
Hence, at the odds on offer, O’Brien’s charge looks the better value of the pair to confirm the 2000 Guineas form and land the spoils.
In-form Newmarket handler John Gosden saddles a fascinating contender in Palace Pier, a hugely exciting colt who is unbeaten in three starts.
This son of Kingman created a big impression when overcoming greenness to score easily by 3 3/4 lengths on juvenile debut at Sandown in a race which has thrown-up a whole host of winners.
Palace Pier then followed-up at the same venue when making all to win easing down by 4 1/2 lengths from Mars Landing. It was a most taking performance and one which saw the assessor allot him an opening handicap mark of 96.
That looked lenient for Palace Pier. He duly made a mockery of it when making a winning return to action in a seven-runner contest at Newcastle two weeks ago.
After being ridden to chase the leader a furlong from home, Palace Pier showed a devastating turn of foot to win going away by just over three lengths from Acquitted.
It was a breathtaking display and it looks significant that Gosden now steps him straight into Group 1 company on the back of it.
He is a trainer that doesn’t go tilting at windmills with his inmates and has made no secret of the high regard in which Palace Pier is held.
It would therefore be folly to underestimate his chances in this and Palace Pier can be backed at 5/1 with William Hill to extend his unbeaten run.