Royal Palace, another hero from the Sixties
Guineas week evokes plenty of memories of great horses from yesteryear. Regular visitor Graham Oliver very kindly provides his memories of an exceptional colt who lit up the Flat season in 1967 in those famous black silks and red cap of Mr Jim Joel.
The Joel family had owned and bred a host of Classic winners in the first part of the twentieth century.
Jack Joel and Solly Joel, separately, had owned the Triple Crown winner Pommern, in addition to the Derby winners Sunstar and Humourist. Other classic winners were the St Leger winners Your Majesty and Black Jester, plus One Thousand Guineas winners Jest and Princess Dorrie.
Jim Joel inherited the Childwick Bury Stud on the death of his father Jack in 1940. He bred and owned his first Classic winner, when Picture Play won the One Thousand Guineas of 1944. Picture Play would become the third dam of Royal Palace.
Royal Palace was a bay colt by Ballymoss ex Glass Slipper, by Solar Slipper. Ballymoss had been runner up to the Noel Murless trained Derby winner Crepello before going on to win the Irish Derby and St Leger in 1957. The following year he was the best horse in Europe. After an unexpected reversal behind Doutelle in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester Ballymoss won the Coronation Cup, Eclipse Stakes, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe before finishing third in the Washington International on his final start.
At stud Ballymoss sired numerous stakes winners including Merry Mate, Parmelia, Sweet Moss, and Feemoss, in turn dam of Levmoss and Sweet Mimosa. Ballymoss was a son of Mossborough, a good stakes winner, runner up in the Eclipse to Mystery, and a good sire.
His dam Glass Slipper (by Solar Slipper) won the Falmouth and Nassau Stakes, both now Group 1. She in turn traced to Picture Play through Queen of Light (by Borealis), also winner of the Falmouth and Criterion Stakes, as well as finishing third to Guineas winner Zabara in the Cheveley Park Stakes.
Royal Palace indeed had an impressive classic pedigree.
In the early spring of 1966 Murless told Jim Joel that Royal Palace would be a Classic candidate the following year.
It was decided to give Royal Palace his racecourse debut in the six furlong Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot. In the event he ran well, staying up with the leaders for the first four furlongs before fading to finish out of the first half dozen behind the Paddy Prendergast trained Bold Lad, who powered home by an easy four lengths.
Royal Palace was then rested until the York Ebor meeting. His target was the Acomb Stakes, again over six furlongs. Ridden by Lester Piggott, Royal Palace took up the running soon after halfway and stayed on strongly to defeat favourite Imagination by two lengths.
His final two year old race was the Royal Lodge Stakes, run over the round mile at Ascot. His opponents included two that were unbeaten, the colt Starry Halo, and the Parthia filly, Slip Stitch. At the start Royal Palace was left and lost ten lengths. It was a fast pace and Lester had to really galvanise him to make up the ground. Royal Palace was still last coming into the straight, but then accelerated to take up the running with two furlongs to go. Slip Stitch ran on to be second, two lengths behind the winner. He was then retired for the winter.
In the Free Handicap Royal Palace was allotted 9st 4lb, the second highest weighted behind Bold Lad, who was on 9st 7lb, and unbeaten in four races including the Champagne and Middle Park Stakes.
Jim Joel’s brother, Stanhope Joel, had his Irish trained four year old colt, Busted, brought over to Warren Place, to act as a pacemaker for the three year old Royal Palace in his homework. It soon became obvious that Busted was far too good for this role. Noel then purchased the Kalydon four year old Bunker, who performed the role admirably. Bunker later won the Great Yorkshire Handicap in September under a big weight, after having had an unlucky run in the Ebor.
Royal Palace’s first race as a three year old was the Two Thousand Guineas. This was always Murless’s preferred route for his best Derby horses. It had been the successful one for Crepello, but his other Derby winner, St Paddy, had only been fifth in 1960, behind Martial and Venture VII. The main rivals to Royal Palace in 1967 were Bold Lad and the good French colt Taj Dewan, ridden by the nineteen year old Freddie Head. Taj Dewan had finished either second or third in all of France’s top two year old races, the Prix Robert Papin, Morny, Salamandre, and Grand Criterium.
Royal Palace was to be ridden by the new stable jockey, Australian George Moore, who had ridden the Aly Khan’s Taboun to victory in 1959.
In the race itself Golden Horus led at the Bushes, and was then challenged by Taj Dewan going into The Dip. Royal Palace, who had always been close up, then took the lead with a hundred yards to go, and ran on really well to hold Taj Dewan by a short head. Missile was third and Bold Lad, who had been squeezed out by Golden Horus, finished fifth. It was a really good performance for a colt with such a staying pedigree.
Next stop was the Derby. His main rivals were perceived to be Dominion Day and Royal Sword, both from Ireland, the Dewhurst winner Dart Board, and Ribocco, ridden by Lester Piggott, although he had had a disappointing season so far.
The race itself is easy to describe. Royal Palace settled well in the middle of the field before moving easily into fourth place going into Tattenham Corner. Once into the straight Royal Palace took up the running with two furlongs left to run. The only danger was Ribocco who was finishing fast down the centre of the course. He reached Royal Palace’s quarters, then George let him stride out and he won very comfortably by two and a half lengths. Dart Board finished third.
Although Royal Palace had won the Derby relatively easily Murless was critical of the ride that George Moore had given the colt, saying that he had let him get to the front too soon. George actually concurred with this, saying later that if he had held Royal Palace up a little longer, then he would have won even more easily.
The Triple Crown was now the target for Royal Palace. He would be brought back for the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York, followed by the St Leger.
The 1967 season was probably Noel Murless’s greatest season, as well as Royal Palace’s exploits Fleet won the One Thousand Guineas and Coronation Stakes. Also during the summer he won the Eclipse and King George with Busted, and Sucaryl finished second in the Irish Sweeps Derby (to Ribocco). Others who added to the tally included Her Majesty’s Hopeful Venture, Cranberry Sauce, and the useful milers St Chad and St Padarn.
Just before the Voltigeur Royal Palace rapped a joint, which ruled him out of the race. Although he seemed alright soon after the incident, it was decided to take the horse out of the St Leger at the four day declaration stage. It was considered that the delay in his preparation would have meant that he wouldn’t have been able to do himself justice. In his absence Hopeful Venture deputised for Warren Place and finished second to Ribocco.
Murless gave Royal Palace one more outing that year, in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket. He ran well below form and finished a disappointing third behind the champion miler Reform and Taj Dewan.
As a four year old, Royal Palace was unbeaten. He also had a new jockey, Sandy Barclay, as George Moore had returned to Australia before the end of the previous season.
His first three races were won easily, first the Coronation (now Brigadier Gerard) Stakes at Sandown Then the Coronation Cup at Epsom, in which, having being blocked in, Barclay managed to extricate him and Royal Palace accelerated clear to beat Bamboozle two length’s with the Irish St Leger winner Dan Kano third. Next the first running of the re-vamped Prince Of Wales Stakes (designed as a preparation for the Eclipse) at Royal Ascot resulted in a facile all the way win over his solitary Irish opponent, albeit by only half a length.
The Eclipse Stakes presented a different challenge altogether. A small, but select field included the brilliant Guineas and Derby winner Sir Ivor, and his old rival Taj Dewan, who in his only outing that year, had comfortably won the Prix Ganay. Sir Ivor had, in fact, been beaten by Ribero in the previous weekend’s Irish Sweeps Derby. However, his owner, the American Raymond Guest, was a true sportsman, and declared that he wanted Sir Ivor to run in the Eclipse.
The 1968 renewal was the first confrontation between Derby winners since 1903. Then the previous year’s Derby hero, Ard Patrick, had beaten the brilliant Sceptre, who had won all the other four classics of 1902, and Rock Sand, who would go on to win that year’s Triple Crown.
In the race itself, Taj Dewan took up the running from his pacemaker Franc Castel, entering the straight, and headed hard for home. Two furlongs from the finish Barclay brought Royal Palace out to challenge, and the colt immediately became unbalanced. Battling on well Royal Palace began to close with the French colt and just managed to get his head in front on the line. Sir Ivor was three quarters of a length away third. It had been a fantastic race.
An incredible thing about the television coverage of this race was that immediately after the runners had passed the post, and before the result was announced, ITV switched to the adverts. It had looked certain that Taj Dewan had just held on, and I remember being amazed, when the camera’s returned to Sandown, to see Royal Palace being led in, and the ITV commentator saying that we were looking at the 1968 Eclipse Stakes winner.
A great weekend for Murless was completed the next day when Hopeful Venture defeated Minamoto and Vaguely Noble in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.
Royal Palace’s swan-song was to be the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. Amongst the runners were Ribero, fresh from his victory over Sir Ivor, the previous year’s Arc victor, Topyo, and the progressive French three year old, Felicio 11, who would win the following year’s Grand Prix de saint-Cloud.
Ribero unshipped Lester at the start and the race was delayed by some ten minutes. Ribero actually set the pace until the turn into the straight. Royal Palace then easily took up the running and started to go clear. A wide margin victory looked assured. However, with a hundred and fifty yards to run, the favourite faltered. His off foreleg had gone. Sandy rode him out with hands and heals and he prevailed by half a length in a gutsy nail biting finish from Felicio II and Topyo. It was a staggeringly brave performance and Royal Palace retired a true champion. The judge, John Hancock, actually told Noel that Felicio II had his head in front with fifty yards left to run.
Royal Palace retired as the winner of two classics and nine of his eleven races. He had won £164,000 in prize money, a record at that time. He was a magnificent looking individual with the added bonus of a fantastic pedigree, and had shown brilliant speed, combined with courage and stamina, on the racecourse.
It is true to say that although Murless obviously rated Royal Palace very highly, he always thought that his 1957 Guineas and Derby winner, the extremely fragile Crepello, was the better horse. Ironic, that but for injury, they might both have been Triple Crown winners.
At stud Royal Palace paid court to the choicest brood mares around, as was to be expected. Unfortunately his second career was a mere shadow of what he had achieved racing. He did sire Dunfermline, who won the Oaks, and inflicted Alleged’s only defeat in the Jubilee St Leger. She also finished fourth in the Arc, behind Alleged. He also sired the triple Champion Hurdler, See You Then, as well as those good fillies, Escorial and Royal Hive.
It is rare for equine twins to survive, let alone race. However, when mated with the Abernant mare Caerphilly, Royal Palace sired the comically named Fanny Farkel, and her brother, Freddy Farkel. I’m afraid I don’t remember any more details about them, although I don’t think that either ever did in fact see a racecourse.
Most of this piece comes from memory, however I am grateful for additional information that I gleaned from “The Guv’nor” by Tim Fitzgeorge-Parker and “More Great Racehorses of the World” by Roger Mortimer and Peter Willett. Both of these volumes will be an admiral addition to any existing racing books on your bookshelf.