PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Hugo Palmer is carry out checks of his string for any signs of sickness after a dip in the yard’s form included a heavy defeat for stable star Galileo Gold in Saturday’s Lockinge Stakes.
While the Newmarket trainer said last year’s 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes winner was giving no cause for concern, tests on the rest of the team were ongoing to establish the cause of a run in which the stable has sent out just one winner in a fortnight, at a three per cent strike-rate.
Palmer also said he would be discussing with Al Shaqab, the owners of Galileo Gold, whether to miss Royal Ascot and focus on getting him back to his best for the Sussex Stakes.
Galileo Gold finished fifth at Newbury on Saturday, ten lengths adrift of arch-rival Ribchester, when his effort was partly undermined by having no pace to race behind.
After Ribchester’s supposed pacemaker Toscanini missed the break, Galileo Gold raced on his own towards the stands’ side, struggled to settle and found little under pressure. Ribchester’s trainer Richard Fahey dismissed the suggestion Toscanini deliberately missed the break, but Palmer is not so sure.
“I thought it was a tactical masterclass from Richard Fahey,” said Palmer. “He sold us all a dummy. We all expected Paul Hanagan to make the running and they very deliberately didn’t.
“Richard’s horse was allowed a very easy lead, was nicely settled in front and finished off very strongly. My God what a good horse he is.
“We were hoping to follow Toscanini and I do wish we had followed Ribchester, but we didn’t.”
Team ‘not 100 per cent’
Palmer also felt the conditions had played a part. He said: “Frankie [Dettori] felt the ground was too gluey for him and he couldn’t get his feet out of the ground. When he won the St James’s Palace it was a very different sort of soft and on that occasion he got his feet out of the ground brilliantly.”
Looking to the wellbeing of his team, he added: “While I don’t believe Galileo Gold is anything other than a very healthy horse, it doesn’t take a genius to work out they we’re not ticking along at 30 per cent winners to runners. The horses as a herd aren’t sick but they clearly aren’t absolutely 100 per cent either.
“Some are running well and others disappointingly. While fifth in a Group 1 is hardly a disaster, it’s not inconceivable Galileo Gold didn’t produce his best effort.”
He said of the current state of play: “We’re running an enormous number of tests and trying to run the ones we’re certain about. If Shutter Speed hadn’t run we’d have won the Musidora with Vintage Folly and have an 8-1 shot for the Oaks.
“We have to treat them all individually. They’re scoping clean and their blood is fine. They’re just a tiny bit quiet.”
Galileo Gold is engaged in the Queen Anne but that, too, is a straight mile, over which he has suffered three successive defeats.
‘He handles the track so well’
Palmer said: “I’ll discuss all the options, which could be dropping him in grade to give him a confidence boost or missing Ascot and going straight to the Sussex Stakes, because he handles the track so well. Maybe now racing on a straight mile isn’t what he needs.”
Ribchester will head to Ascot, possibly joined by Toscanini, with Fahey saying the subject of Saturday’s tactics were “done, dusted and finished”.
He added: “We have to speak to Sheikh Mohammed, but it looks like we’ll go for the mile race at Ascot. I don’t think we should be changing too much. I’d like to have the option of a pacemaker to cover every corner. We’ll play it by ear.”
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