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Updated on 06/11/2013 9:58AM
Belmont Stakes: Palace Malice puts away Preakness winner Oxbow
By Jay Privman
ELMONT, N.Y. – It was an illuminating day at Belmont Park. The sun came out, and the light went on.
After a storm pummeled the area Friday, the sun shined bright on the old New York home of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday afternoon. And Palace Malice added to the wattage, the light finally coming on for a colt held in high regard for months by his trainer, Todd Pletcher.
Palace Malice, with just one win to his credit from seven prior starts, and having most recently run like a scared cat in the Kentucky Derby, put it all together in the 145th Belmont, powering home by 3 1/4 lengths to beat the Preakness winner, Oxbow, who was second, and Orb, the Kentucky Derby winner, who was third.
Oxbow finished 1 3 /4 lengths in front of Orb, who was one length in front of Incognito. Revolutionary was fifth and was followed, in order, by the filly Unlimited Budget, Overanalyze, Vyjack, Golden Soul, Will Take Charge, Giant Finish, Midnight Taboo, Freedom Child, and Frac Daddy.
Palace Malice ($29.60), the seventh choice in the field of 14, completed 1 1/2 miles on the fast main track in 2:30.70.
“I felt like he had a big one in him,” Pletcher said. “I kept waiting for it to materialize in the afternoon.”
As far back as last summer, Pletcher thought Palace Malice was one of his best – if not his best – 2-year-olds. Earlier this year, after Palace Malice had turned 3 and started down the trail toward the Kentucky Derby, Pletcher would privately advise that Palace Malice should be strongly considered for inclusion on Daily Racing Form’s Derby Watch. Told prior to his second start this year that Palace Malice would not make the cut that week, Pletcher replied, “You’ll have him on the list after he wins the Risen Star.”
But Palace Malice could only finish third in the Risen Star. Then he had a traffic-filled trip in the Louisiana Derby, in which he was seventh. Wheeled back two weeks later, he was second in the Blue Grass. And in the Derby, with blinkers added for the first time, Palace Malice set surprisingly swift fractions before tiring to finish 12th of 19.
The blinkers came off for the Belmont, jockey Mike Smith stayed on, and Palace Malice continued to train strongly. Pletcher said his penultimate work for the Belmont was one of the best of any horse he’s ever trained, and this week, his top assistant, Michael McCarthy, said, “This horse has a big one in him.”
Palace Malice received a perfect, stalking trip under Smith. He was fourth, four paths wide, turning up the backstretch, on the outside, while Frac Daddy and Oxbow zipped through a 46.66-second opening half-mile, the second-fastest in the history of the race, behind only the pace set by Secretariat in his otherworldly 1973 performance.
As the field advanced toward and then went around the far turn, Frac Daddy dropped away, leaving Oxbow to try and fend off Palace Malice. Smith said that Gary Stevens, aboard Oxbow, realized his horse could not keep up and said, “You go on with it.”
Palace Malice gradually increased his advantage, to two lengths passing the eighth pole, and 3 1/2 at the wire.
Oxbow, despite what Stevens called “suicidal fractions,” courageously held second, leaving Stevens to call him “one of the bravest horses I’ve ever ridden.”
Orb was in front of just one horse the first half-mile of the race, but the pace of the Belmont was reminiscent of the race shape he encountered in the Derby. He made a prolonged run into and then around the far turn, but could not finish it off, despite a final quarter-mile that was run in 27.58.
“He just ran okay,” said Shug McGaughey, who trains Orb, who went off as the 2-1 favorite. “He made a good run around the turn, but we had given up so much. The speed horses held on up front, and we just couldn’t catch them.”
For Smith, 47, this was his second Belmont win, following Drosselmeyer in 2010. He finished second in 2012 with Paynter, completing a Triple Crown series in which he finished second in all three legs.
“God has a way of making you patient,” Smith said. “Today was our day.”
The Belmont win also was the second for Pletcher, 45, who won with the filly Rags to Riches in 2007. Pletcher sent out five horses in this Belmont and finished first, fifth, sixth, seventh, and 12th.
Coincidentally, the horse Rags to Riches narrowly defeated in that Belmont, Curlin, is the sire of Palace Malice. Pletcher trains Palace Malice for the Dogwood Stable syndicate run by Cot Campbell, 85, who was one of the first to support Pletcher when he left the employ of D. Wayne Lukas nearly 18 years ago.
“It was an emotional win for me because of the Dogwood connection,” Pletcher said. “They supported me from the very beginning, and to win a big race for them is really gratifying.”
Palace Malice earned $600,000 from the $1 million purse to bring his lifetime total to $871,135. Palace Malice was purchased as a 2-year-old in training for $200,000 in April 2012 at Keeneland. This was Dogwood’s second win in a Triple Crown race, following the 1990 Preakness with Summer Squall.
Campbell called this “the mother of all great moments.”
Belmont Park was hit by nearly 3 1/2 inches of rain during a massive storm that lasted into Friday night and Saturday morning. The main track was sealed before racing on Friday by compacting the sandy surface and was closed to training Saturday morning for all but Belmont Stakes runners.
At the start of the day, the track was rated muddy, but it had a firm bottom because of the seal. After the fifth race, it was dry enough to be harrowed, and the track was upgraded to good. By the time of the Belmont, it was fast, and Palace Malice was fastest.
"There was 5 of us in there for Todd. Ya know we all wanna kinda help each other out, but yet give ourselves a chance as well." Gee, we should help each other out too. What do ya think?
A horse eligible for NW2L staggers home the final quarter in harness racing time and people are excited? More and more every year thoroughbred horse racing gets worse. In every single facet of the game. Shouldn't be long now before this sport ends up like Betunfair Hollywood Park.
Congratulations to the connections of Palace Malice and especially to Mike Smith, who by all accounts must be considered one of the best big race riders in the game. Here on the West Coast a lot of bettors like to criticize Smith for what they perceive as his lack of effort on average workaday mounts. But when the money is down and the big boys are in town there is no better rider in the game!
the payouts on this years TC races have been terrific!! and they sure have been keeping people guessing thats for sure! cant wait to see which new one will pop up in the Travers looks like some more nice payouts down the road!
I'm so glad this is debacle is over. Racing has been my passion since 1972, but the past few years have caused me to be less and less interested in the sport with the way we breed, drugs, the tracks we run on, the selling of our best to other countries so that they can breed the best horses in the world now, the lack wanting to race a horse very often or run them for very long. Not giving up on it, but I can't believe I can honestly say, the thrill is gone. At least Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta brought some recent life to the party.
orb's fractions in the ky derby were 23.8, 23.9, 23.9, 24, 25.5, 25.8. almost exactly the same as i'll have another's pace line last year--accept that i'll have another, who ran 40 feet less than orb did, a finished a second faster: 1 second = 5 lengths. one length = 8 feet. if i'll have another only finished one second faster than orb, but traveled 8 lengths less than he did, he was running much SLOWER than orb. but i don't see anyone saying i'll have another was fluke or only won because of bode's pace melt (and bode's fractions clearly show he did melt down). so yeah i do think he would have won the ky derby pace melt down or not, because despite running an additional 80 feet than just about everyone in the race, he was the only horse to run almost perfect 24's for the first mile, and was the only one to close under 26 seconds, not that all but golden soul and revolutionary did. medicore and fluke horses don't usually win the foy, the fl, derby, the ky derby, manage a 4th in the preakness, and bounce back for 3rd in the belmont in a 5 month span. just because orb isn't the second coming of secretariat doesn't mean he "fooled" anybody, or that he isn't the best of his crop so far. he certainly has the best record of any in his crop to date. in any sane year that would assure him the respect he has earned, but this year people blame a horse, who tried his best, for their immature belief that he owed them something and crushed their dream. blaming a horse for what people were saying about him, and completely discounting his races and performances, which have been outstanding--exposes you, not him. if orb had only won the derby due to a pace melt down, he wouldn't have managed a sustained run (for a full mile!) to get up for third in the belmont on a track which saw no horses win from off the pace all day. if he had only won the derby to to a pace meltdown, he wouldn't have rebounded in the preakness after fading to second to last, only a neck in from to a horse that finished over 20 lengths behind him. you don't think that shows heart? most horses would have mentally collapsed after fading like he did, but he didn't, he fought back as much as he could. palace malice was a fresh horse today, who only just beat two horses that have run 3 races in 5 weeks--you don't get to talk about a horse loosing out on winning the triple crown due to the pace in the derby, that he created, and who SKIPPED one of the TC races. you don't get to talk about a horse who came in 8th in the derby and 2nd in the belmont, losing the triple crown due to the pace in the derby. oxbow had as much opportunity to win the triple crown as orb did, and didn't. orb and oxbow established themselves as the best in their crop so far. their 2 and 3 place finishes in the belmont VALIDATE their respective ky derby and preakness wins. can all the orb haters give it a rest? HE DIDN"T OWE YOU A TRIPLE CROWN. he raced every race, danced every dance (and a lot more than any other 3 yr old this year except oxbow), and he ran hard in all of them. if you can't appreciate that, you follow the wrong sport. for all you "the front enders got robbed in the derby" folks --no one made them attend that pace, and if they were as great and as deserving of the win that they lost, and the triple crown that orb "robbed" from them, they wouldn't have finished in 27, 28, and 33--people seem to forget, that the triple crown winners of the seventies could attend those fractions and still win.
How cool is it that the mighty Curlin is the sire if this little colt? If this is a preview into his stud career then he's going to be one hell of a stallion. Also I wonder how high his stud fee is going to be since his first crop already won a classic race. Curlin was and will forever be one of my favorite racehorses along with the great Cigar and the legendary Secretariat.
ESTOS CABALLOS ESTÁN MUY LEJOS DE LOS CABALLOS DE LOS 80 Y 90.. ESTA GENERACION DA PENA.
why were some of the jocks covered in mud after the race?...well here's your answer....the track was fast but underneath the track was mud...that mud slowed down all the horses.....mud is very tiring to run over..and slippery......final thoughts...slow race final time because of the track
So again the 'test of the champion' is decided on pace and not stamina.... I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed this years Triple Crown and am looking forward to the continuing battle in the 3 year old division