09/21/2013 11:53AM

Belmont Park: Pletcher works seven graded winners, including a sharp Palace Malice

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Tom Keyser
Palace Malice works a half-mile under Annie Finney at Belmont Park on Saturday.

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ELMONT, N.Y. – His 3-year-old campaign started in January and has included stops at six tracks in four states. It certainly doesn’t appear that schedule has taken a toll on Palace Malice.

Palace Malice, the Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy winner, showed Saturday that he continues to thrive, working four furlongs in 48.43 seconds over the Belmont training track but continuing to gallop out seven furlongs in 1:28.97 in preparation for a start in next Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup here.

Palace Malice was one of seven graded stakes winners – six of them Grade 1 winners – trainer Todd Pletcher worked over the training track at Belmont on Saturday morning, one day earlier than scheduled due to forecasted rains Saturday night and Sunday morning. Coincidentally, a light shower fell as Palace Malice went through his work, but nothing to alter the condition of the fast track.

Whitney winner Cross Traffic and Donn Handicap winner Graydar worked five furlongs together in 1:00.52 in preparation for the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Grade 2 Kelso, respectively. Princess of Sylmar, a three-time Grade 1 winner, and Authenticity, a Grade 2 winner, worked four furlongs together in 48.50. Princess of Sylmar is pointing to next Saturday’s Grade 1 Beldame here, while Authenticity is expected to ship to Southern California for the Grade 1, $250,000 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita, also next Saturday.

Grade 1 winners Verrazano and Capo Bastone also worked in company, going a half-mile in 48.87. Verrazano is pointing to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, while Plan A for King’s Bishop winner Capo Bastone is the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, Pletcher said.

Palace Malice is coming out of a fourth-place finish in the Travers in which he didn’t break well and was last early under Mike Smith, but was only beaten three-quarters of a length by Will Take Charge.

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Saturday, working by himself, Palace Malice went his first eighth in 12.83, the quarter in 24.96, and then got his last quarter in 23.47 with exercise rider Annie Finney barely moving on him. Palace Malice galloped out five furlongs in 1:02.11 and six furlongs in 1:14.50.

Pletcher said it is the kind of move he has come to expect from Palace Malice, but even he is impressed with how well the colt is doing.

“He’s run in literally every dance all year, and he seems to be thriving on it, just getting better and better,” Pletcher said. “His condition is unbelievable, the way he’s held his weight. His mental attitude has been great as well.”

In the Gold Cup, Palace Malice will have to contend with, among others, Cross Traffic, who has not run since taking the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational at Saratoga on Aug. 3. For the last several weeks, he has been working steadily with Graydar, who hasn’t run since winning the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds on March 30. Though Cross Traffic, under John Velazquez was going the easier of the pair, the two gray colts were inseparable through the lane in Saturday’s five-furlong move in 1:00.52, getting their final quarter in 24.32. They galloped out seven furlongs in 1:26.80.

“They seem to be making good mates, we’re coming into this with a little bit of a break from the Whitney with Cross Traffic, so we want to make sure we got a good solid work,” Pletcher said. “Graydar is running in a shorter race, but still coming in off a pretty significant layoff. I think we got from a conditioning standpoint what we were hoping for.”

Princess of Sylmar, the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Alabama winner, and Authenticity, the Shuvee winner, got the final quarter of their half-mile move in 24.15.

“Authenticity seemed a little more enthusiastic over this track than the Oklahoma track last week, but that was a very good work from both of them,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher said by running Authenticity in the Zenyatta at Santa Anita “it gives us a chance to separate them and take a shot at a Grade 1 . . . You got to run against Royal Delta here or run against Beholder there, tough spot either way; two turns there versus one turn here.”

In other works, King Kreesa, runner-up to Wise Dan in the Fourstardave at Saratoga, went five furlongs in 1:01.51 over the Belmont training track in preparation for a start in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational.

In the Joe Hirsch, King Kreesa will take on Arlington Million winner Real Solution and Sword Dancer Invitational winner Big Blue Kitten, who breezed five furlongs together in 1:02.10 over Belmont’s turf course.

Point of Entry, last year’s Joe Hirsch winner, worked four furlongs in 50.55 over the main track, his second breeze since resuming training following surgery to repair a hind leg fracture.