Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes cannot come soon enough for Galileo Gold

Newmarket trainer Hugo Palmer is excited about running his stable star Galileo Gold in the first proper test of 2017 for older milers in Europe, the Group One Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes, at Newbury on Saturday, May 20.

The four-year-old Paco Boy colt has long had the £350,000 race over the straight mile at Newbury as his target.

Palmer, who last year sent out Galileo Gold to win the first British Classic, the QIPCO 2000 Guineas, at Newmarket in May and the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, believes his charge is better than ever.

He said today: “Galileo Gold is absolutely there within himself and all we have to do now is nervously tick him over into the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes in just under four weeks’ time.

“All his really serious work is done and we took him for a racecourse gallop at Newmarket last Thursday.

“Last year, we ran him three times quickly at the start of the season (winning the two G1 races above and finishing second in the Irish 2,000 Guineas) and it was then quite a struggle to get him to Goodwood (for the G1 Qatar Sussex Stakes on July 27) absolutely spot-on and I will always have a tiny suspicion that he wasn’t quite at his peak (when beaten a neck by The Gurkha).

“But he wasn’t beaten very far and I regret now taking him to France (eighth, G1 Prix Jacques Le Marois on August 14) so hot on the heels of that run. The horse did not have the time to relax and it buzzed him up and he never really calmed down for the rest of the year.

“I think it is fair to say when Frankie (Dettori) got off him at Ascot (fifth in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, October 15) after he had had two less than pleasurable times with the horse, their relationship was a bit on the rocks.

“The main purpose of Thursday’s racecourse gallop was to remind Frankie what an engine this horse has; and for them to get back into love with each other again.

“Galileo Gold had a lovely break over the winter and has settled down an enormous amount. Through December and January, when he came back into work, he was leading yearlings up Warren Hill which he would not have done before. It was wonderful to see.

“He would not have led his own generation of yearlings three years ago. Galileo Gold had to lead his lead horse the other day because the lead horse was playing up. He has just grown up.

“The look on Frankie’s face after the gallop, the hugging and kissing of the horse, you really felt that the magic was back between them. The horse is in the right place, but it is so important that Frankie knows it too; that they believe in each other.

“The piece of work Galileo Gold did on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket Racecourse could not have gone better. He is totally versatile as far as the ground is concerned.

“It was very quick at Newmarket on Thursday but he absolutely skipped over it, and Frankie said he felt amazing, while it was soft ground at Royal Ascot.

“I still pinch myself over his Guineas’ win last year – everything went perfectly beforehand and in the race and he absolutely bolted up.

“He got himself very wound up towards the end of last year with the fairly relentless racing programme I had given him. All the signs are, having had a proper break, and being a year older and more mature, he has settled down.

“I don’t see the Lockinge being run at a crawl. After the Al Shaqab Lockinge, he will go for the Queen Anne Stakes and Qatar Sussex Stakes and then we will take a view. But we will take it one race at a time.”

Galileo Gold is owned by Al Shaqab Racing whose founder is His Excellency Sheikh Joaan Al Thani of Qatar.

Harry Herbert, racing advisor to Sheikh Joaan Al Thani, commented: “Galileo Gold looks fantastic. He is a different horse this year physically – he is much stronger – a really imposing colt.

“The piece of work last week at Newmarket Racecourse was very impressive. Frankie was seriously impressed. Galileo Gold is much more settled this year.

“It will be great to see Galileo Gold back in action – he seems in very good order and he should run very well at Newbury.”

Home Of The Brave, owned by Godolphin, could also take part for Palmer in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes.

The five-year-old horse has been a seven-furlong specialist to date and makes his seasonal debut in the Listed totescoop6 EBF Stallions King Richard III Stakes over that trip at Leicester on Saturday.

Palmer said: “He won that race last year and is a fast-ground horse. He would have run in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes last year but for the weather going against us.

“There have been a couple of times during his career – when he has won so well over seven furlongs – that you think he could get the mile.

“I would love to have the opportunity to run him over a mile again, so if things go well on Saturday and we get fast ground at Newbury then he will go for the Lockinge.”

Palmer is hoping to have other runners on Al Shaqab Lockinge Day, May 20, including Crimean Tatar in the Group Three Al Rayyan Stakes over 12 furlongs and Kodiac colt Never Back Down in the £50,000 Olympic Glory Conditions Race for two-year-olds over six furlongs.