Horses To Follow » Palace Moon

Palace Moon

Palace Moon was probably more impressive in landing the big six-furlong handicap at Doncaster on Sunday than Expresso Star was in landing the Lincoln on Saturday. Always in the front rank on the far side, tracking Bel Cantor, he cruised past that rival, absolutely on the bridle, a furlong and a half out, and when Steve Drowne asked him to pick up, the response was electric. The race was effectively over as a contest by the time they reached the furlong pole. He was at least four lengths clear of his closest pursuer, Advanced, at that point, and he continued to power away all the way to the line, where he was heavily eased.

This was a huge performance. This contest had attracted a high class group of handicappers – if a fairly exposed bunch in the main – and Palace Moon routed them. The son of Fantastic Light ran just three times in his life before Saturday, winning a Class 5 maiden at Salisbury on his second start before running well to finish third behind Khor Dubai in a conditions stakes at Newmarket at the back end of last season. The handicap rating of 88 that he was allotted for this, his handicap debut, was obviously ridiculously lenient in hindsight, and he should be able to take even a significant rise easily in his stride if Hughie Morrison decides to continue down the handicap route.

However, he will probably be much better than a handicapper. We are continually presented with evidence that suggests that there is very little between the top sprint handicappers and the pattern performers. The runner-up on Saturday, Advanced, won an Ayr Gold Cup off a mark of 109. Okay, so that was a couple of seasons ago, but he is still a talented performer on his day, and Palace Moon laughed at him, carrying the same weight after taking the rider’s claim into account.

Palace Moon is a half-brother to Sakhee’s Secret who was trained, like Palace Moon, by Hughie Morrison for owner/breeder Bridget Swire, and it would not be at all surprising if Morrison had pattern races in mind again. Sakhee’s Secret ran three times in his first season, then won a handicap on his second-season debut, then won two listed races and went on to win the July Cup. Although Palace Moon is a year older now than Sakhee’s Secret was then, it would not be at all surprising if he was good enough to pursue a similar type of programme. With the exception of Marchand D’Or (who has to bounce back from a really poor run in Dubai on Saturday) and possibly Overdose, the top of the sprinting tree looks fairly sparsely populated at present, and there is every chance that Palace Moon can progress sufficiently to take a lofty place in it.

© The Irish Field, 4th April 2009