MATCHMAKER Hugo Palmer reckons he has his perfect couple back together for the Lockinge Stakes.
After a bumpy end to last season, Frankie Dettori and Galileo Gold have rekindled their racecourse romance.
And Palmer thinks the spark between them can power the pair to Group 1 glory all over again.
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Dettori and Galileo Gold teamed up to win the 2,000 Guineas last spring before adding the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
But the relationship hit the skids after a narrow defeat in the Sussex Stakes followed by below-par efforts in France and in the QEII Stakes at Ascot on Champions Day.
Palmer, 36, turned cupid in a bid to reignite the affection between the pair. He fixed them up with a racecourse date at Newmarket last month and early signs are this love story could have a happy ending.
He explained: “It’s fair to say when Frankie got off him at Ascot on Champions Day, having had two less than pleasurable times with the horse, their relationship was a little bit on the rocks.
“That was really the main purpose of giving him the racecourse gallop to remind Frankie what an engine this horse has and for them to get back in love again.
“The look on Frankie’s face, the sort of hugging and kissing the horse afterwards — you felt the magic was back between them which is so important.
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“The horse seems to be in the right place and it’s so important Frankie knows it too and that they believe in each other.
“The piece of work he did couldn’t have gone any better.
“He had a lovely break over the winter and has settled down an enormous amount.
“Through December and January he was leading the yearlings up Warren Hill. It was wonderful to see. He is more relaxed this year compared to 12 months ago and he has really grown up.
“We ran him quickly three times at the start of last year and it was then quite a struggle to get him to Goodwood absolutely spot on for the Sussex Stakes.
“I’ll always have a tiny suspicion he was not quite at his peak but he wasn’t beaten very far – only a few inches.
“I regret now taking him to France so hot on the heels of that. The horse didn’t have time to relax – it buzzed him up and he never really calmed down for the rest of the year.”
Palmer already has his eye on Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne Stakes and a return to Goodwood for the Sussex Stakes with Galileo Gold. Then possible trips to Japan, Australia and America are under consideration.
It’s been a rapid rise for Palmer. From a handful of horses six years ago he now has getting on for 150 at his Newmarket yard and is competing at the top level around the world.
Covert Love – owned by a group of pals – gave Palmer his first Classic success when progressing from handicaps to land the Irish Oaks two years ago.
That helped push his seasonal prize-money total past the £1million mark.
He doubled that last season with Hawksmoor, Home Of The Brave, Best Of Days, Afandem and Gifted Master all winning Group prizes. But Galileo Gold was undoubtedly the star of the show.
Palmer said: “The 2,000 Guineas is one of those races you dream about winning.
“I still have to pinch myself that it even happened, I count my lucky stars. Everything went perfectly and I feel hugely privileged to have him still in training as a four-year-old.”
Privilege is something Eton-educated Palmer — the eldest son of the fourth Baron Palmer — is used to.
His family’s wealth is built on custard creams and chocolate digestives through Huntley and Palmers – at one time the biggest biscuit manufacturer in the world.
The ancestral home in Berwickshire, Scotland, contains the only silver staircase on the planet. While some might say he was born with a spoon of the same precious metal sticking out of his gob, his place at racing’s top table has come through hard graft.
Spells working for the Queen’s racing advisor John Warren and Cheveley Park Stud were followed by a move to trainer Pat Chamings.
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He then spent three years as Hughie Morrison’s assistant before jetting off to Australia to work for Gai Waterhouse.
After getting a nudge to start training from bloodstock agent Amanda Skiffington he took the plunge with £26,000 bargain buy Making Eyes.
That first horse went on to win a couple of Listed races and Palmer was on his way to training success.
His Kremlin Cottage stables, which have expanded rapidly in recent years, are sandwiched between Saeed bin Suroor’s Godolphin powerhouse and Marco Botti’s yard.
And Palmer is certainly not out of place among those neighbours with Galileo Gold flying the flag.
And with no worries about the recent spring showers, punters would be crackers to ignore his chance.
Palmer said: “Thank God he isn’t ground-dependent, the weather can do what it likes.”
You get the feeling whatever happens today Palmer will have plenty of days in the sun with his two lovebirds in the coming months.