Updated on 09/25/2013 5:03PM

Breeders' Cup Classic: Orb, Palace Malice test waters versus elders

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Tom Keyser
Palace Malice, most recently fourth in the Travers, will face older horses for the first time in Saturday's Jockey Club Gold Cup.

ARCADIA, Calf. – There are certain times of the racing calendar that are perennial. Every spring, there is wonder over which 2-year-olds have progressed into Kentucky Derby contenders, and which have already peaked. And every fall, after the merits of the current 3-year-old class have been debated and dissected, the answers are revealed as to whether the best of that crop can successfully compete against their elders.

In the 29 prior runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a 3-year-old has won the race nine times, beginning with Proud Truth in 1985, and most recently by Raven’s Pass, right here at Santa Anita, in 2008.

This year’s Classic, to be run again at Santa Anita, is a little more than five weeks away, but the fascination of whether the current crop of 3-year-olds can hold their own against their elders ramps up significantly on Saturday, with, most notably, Triple Crown race winners Orb and Palace Malice competing in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

The Gold Cup is one of three important races Saturday that serve as preps to the $5 million Classic, the last and richest leg of the 14-race Breeders’ Cup extravaganza Nov. 1-2 at Santa Anita. Also on tap are the Homecoming Classic at Churchill Downs, in which last year’s Classic winner, Fort Larned, is scheduled to compete, and the Awesome Again at Santa Anita, featuring Mucho Macho Man, last year’s Classic runner-up, as well as fan favorite Paynter.

But it is the Gold Cup that is by far the most intriguing. Not only will it define the leading New York-based contenders for the Classic, but it will serve as a guideline as to how this year’s class of 3-year-olds measures up against such top-class older runners as Flat Out, winner of the last two runnings of the Gold Cup, and Cross Traffic.

Shug McGaughey, trainer of Orb, has been down this road many times before during his Hall of Fame career. He said he is eager to find out how Orb, the Kentucky Derby winner, stacks up.

“He’s a top-quality colt with a lot of upside,” McGaughey said from New York on Wednesday morning. “It’s a good race. Whether he can beat older horses, we’ll find out.”

Orb and Palace Malice both awaited the Jockey Club Gold Cup, at 1 1/4 miles at Belmont Park, rather than run 1 1/8 miles in a race restricted to 3-year-olds, the Pennsylvania Derby, last week at Parx Racing. Both last raced in the Travers Stakes, where Orb was third and Palace Malice fourth, both with excuses. The form of the Travers was validated when Will Take Charge and Moreno, the first two finishers in the Travers, ran 1-2 again in the Pennsylvania Derby.

Palace Malice, the Belmont Stakes winner, had an aggressive pre-Derby schedule, yet has held his form through the summer, which trainer Todd Pletcher said was “pretty rare.”

“Some of these 3-year-olds go through the Derby preps and bottom out, or they run in the Derby and Belmont and then need a break, but with him, the more activity he has, the stronger his races are and the better he trains,” Pletcher said on a national teleconference earlier this week.

Pletcher said he believes Palace Malice “stacks up very well” against the older horses he will face because of “the way he’s been running, his maturity level, and his physical development.”

Palace Malice is a son of Curlin, who is one of the nine 3-year-olds to have won the Classic. Curlin did it in 2007, capping off a brilliant year that began with him as an unraced maiden.

“That’s a natural comparison with the pedigree,” Pletcher said. “We never thought Palace Malice would show as much speed as he did as a 2-year-old. We always thought he’d do better with more distance.”

Like Curlin, Palace Malice is a big, strong colt, the kind who can physically take an ambitious, year-long campaign.

“To me, he looks like he’s put on weight,” Pletcher said. “It’s rare to see a horse run in those kinds of races and continue to flourish.”

After the Belmont, Palace Malice won the Jim Dandy, then had an unlucky trip in the Travers, in which he finished a close fourth after a poor start.

“I was shocked he got as close as he did after he got off to the start he did,” Pletcher said. “The ground just left him. It was a huge effort on his part.”

Mike Smith, who rode Palace Malice, said he “absolutely lost his back end leaving the gate.”

“I believe he was the best horse in that race,” Smith said.

The margin for error narrows noticeably with this newest challenge. Palace Malice, or Orb, can’t afford to take a literal step back.

Both the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Awesome Again offers fees-paid berths to the BC Classic through the Win and You’re In program.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be the 30th and will be run at Santa Anita for the seventh time. Santa Anita played host to the event last year and already has been tabbed to host next year, marking the first time the Breeders’ Cup will be held at the same location three straight years.

The Breeders’ Cup had expanded to 15 races in recent years, but has eliminated the Juvenile Sprint from this year’s menu, so there will be 14 races for Thoroughbreds, five on Nov. 1 and nine – including the Classic – on Nov. 2. Purses will total $27 million.

In addition, the Breeders’ Cup recently announced it will run an affiliated race for pure-bred Arabians on the Nov. 1 card, which will be a first at the Breeders’ Cup.

A previous version of this article misstated the number of races on each Breeders' Cup program. There will be five Thoroughbred races on Friday's card and nine races on Saturday's.

Daniel Alvarado More than 1 year ago
Orb, Palace Malice, Flat Out is my Tri. I feel Cross Traffic will not make the distance and come up short in 4th...I'm hoping Orb can get it done.
Daniel Alvarado More than 1 year ago
Ron seems to have lost a step...Las Gunfighter is G3 horse, outclassed here...Vitoria Olimpica intriguing, has speed but also outclassed...Alpha won't get easy lead here like last time, will be surprised if he finishes 3rd-4th.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Belmont park seems to have a scratch or scratches every race. I think it is a little funny, does anybody think there will be scratch maybe ron the greek,
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Flat Out.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
N don't let me leave Royal Delta out.
m More than 1 year ago
8=======> ~~~~~~~
Mark More than 1 year ago
BTW everyone notice again big Jeff has no opinion BEFORE the race ?
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
You're a big boy. You can pick your own horses. Can't you?
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Don't make him mad... He'll cry.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Lick balls.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Attaboy.... Show us all what you are all about.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Coward
Perl More than 1 year ago
So what? This isn't a contest to everyone. There are plenty of great players who will never post an opinion ahead of time because they make their plays based on the odds. Not everyone has so much to prove on here bro.
Mark More than 1 year ago
And there are plenty on here that don't post their so called opinion until after the race. Jeff being 1. Also you can easily post that you are willing to take a horse up until a certain odds. Simple
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
example?
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Very well said Perl.... For the record I don't recall ever red boarding a pick.,,,so be it. I am , however, very comfortable with my position.....The fact is I am just not consumed with the need for self validation. Some are.Most are not. And there are forums for that. The offer was made though....for all to see.
gallopingtom More than 1 year ago
I agree. However, the track conditions were awful at Churchill Downs. The last three runnings of the B.C. Throw in Monmouth Park in '07 and you can clearly see why Santa Anita is preferred. Last years main track bias was the most overhyped issue. The best horse won every race. Remember, in breeders cup races you can't make up for mistakes at the gate. Too many good horses in the races.
Dave More than 1 year ago
I'm tired of Santa Anita getting to run the Breeders Cup already! What they should really do is hold the BC at a neutral site like Churchill Downs, requiring both east and west coast horses to ship. Track I think is also the most fair, no bias. Only downside is the uncertain weather conditions.
B More than 1 year ago
That's a better idea than what is occurring now, but what they really need to do is go back to its roots and and make this once again a traveling event across the country. At the very least, this event should be evenly held at SA, Belmont and CD.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
I know like 1800 plus miles in travel distance is so neutral. Like Oregon playing in rose bowl against Wisconsin is so neutral. Put it at Belmont. That's the place Tiznow traveled all the way from California to win so what's the big deal. To me weather is apart of racing. I live out west love west coast racing, but I want to see the breeders at Belmont . They should rotate
Daniel Alvarado More than 1 year ago
The answers is plain and simple Dave, and you said it, it's the weather...Churchill and Belmont don't guarantee sunny skies in Nov...down here Gulfstream is working on renovating it's facilities to bring the BC to sunny South Florida.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Belmont definitely deserves to be a part of the rotation. The problem has been that the weather is very dicey at that time of year on long island. Also the facility itself is in not such great condition. That said, the dirt track and turf courses are both top notch and the sightlines are excellent.
Mike Rutledge More than 1 year ago
No decision untill I see the PPs.
kc m More than 1 year ago
brisnet has orb as the best in 3 of 4 categories, but flat out not only has the belmont specialist angle, he towers over the field in brisnet speed figures going back two years
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
This race may very well decide 3 year old eclipse. Both Todd and Shug know it. Either colt could have gone to Penn Derby and been tough to beat. But taking on elders one race before Classic has always been the right move. And I'm glad Cross Traffic will have Last Gunfighter to press him. Chad was an assistant to Shug before Frankel. And his horse is on a hot streak. My pick...ORB AND FLAT OUT!
Mark More than 1 year ago
Dead heat ? Betting both to win ? Exacta ?
edb More than 1 year ago
yep, that's an exacta. 2 horses. Thomas, I think your right again. And mark, you're Mark -1
Mark More than 1 year ago
"My pick" indicates one horse. One winner. "My exacta" indicates an exacta. Thomas can answer himself edb.he responds to every other comment of mine. BTW he hasn't been right since May.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Mark. I think Travers super was last month right? Also Cotillion was a week ago. Honor Code. Royal Delta. Woodbine mile exactas. Etc. I just don't feel the urge to gloat to prove myself. Saturday...MMM, RD, FO,ORB.....
sharjil More than 1 year ago
Tom, picking the favorite in each race requires great skills, which you my friend, have mastered !!!
Mark More than 1 year ago
Chalk eating weasel we call them . Lol
Mark More than 1 year ago
Um you posted none of the above except CH. Red board. Chalk eater lol.
Mark More than 1 year ago
And you pick orb in Travers lmao. Get honest. Something you struggle with?
Mark More than 1 year ago
Its September.
B More than 1 year ago
Well, that's my exacta too and I will stick with it, but Orb really needs to prove that he is the horse that I once thought he would be. This race could decide the 3 year old championship even if Orb & PM both lose. The both have such similar records that it may come down just to which one finishes in front of the other. When Will Take Charge gets trounced in the Classic, and he will, he will be eliminated from consideration. Hope that Castellano can keep Orb further off the pace than Lezcano did. Also think it really odd that Pletcher is running Vitoria Olimpica, who seems to have some speed, against Cross Traffic.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Agreed on WTC. I think the title remains Orb's to lose but I don't care much abou that. I agree Vitoria Olimpica is an odd entranat. Not only could he be a bother to Cross Traffic, but he might prevent Palace Malice from getting that nice open stalking trip that he likes so much. Maybe VO gets scratched. Either way he isn't totally hopeless. He is lightly raced and has shown upside.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Unless one these two win classic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is strange. Why have two speed horses running against each other, unless you want to force closers to run around a fading horse. I think this race will decide 3 year old championship because none of them will win the Classic. If Flat Out wins big, it will drive odds up that much higher on Orb and PM for BC. Just hope for a fast track, an even break and a mob scene behind CT after 6 furlongs. Will be a fun race to watch as we start to separate horses and their abilities. Lots of ooos and aahs coming after this race. I might try to put Last Gunfighter into my supers to spice them up. Nice card. Let's all have a profitable day
saratogajunkie More than 1 year ago
Must have missed something in the Traverse...Orb...had an excuse ??? Looked to me like he had every chance in the stretch and was simply outfinished.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
I"m with you on that.
Ann More than 1 year ago
First off of a two-plus month layoff. Was short.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Obviously, which goes to handicapping and was surprised he ran as well as he did. An excuse is almost always something which happens during the running of the race.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The horse wasn't race fit coming off a 60 plus day layoff.Come on,that is an excuse.Both WTC and Moreno had a race under their belt.If Orb had one too he would have won the race going away.Please!!!
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
An excuse in that context is something which happens during the running of the race. Of course he was short which is not an excuse, but something to be considered in handicapping.
Mark More than 1 year ago
And how about Preakness? Belmont? Excuses piling up ? Straight $ burner last 3 . Period.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
There was no excuses in preakness and belmont or travers, especially last two. Just not best period, Saturday he will be Best.
Mark More than 1 year ago
+1
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
So you plus one yourself Now. My turn.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
+1
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
I like Justin Phillip and Private zonin Vosburgh everybody should bet against this weekend. Picks been pretty bad as of late.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Justin Phillip comes back strong. This is addictive
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
now that's funny.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
To refer to the Jockey Club Gold Cup as a prep for any-damn-thing is ignorant. Privman owes apologies to every winner and the connections of this prestigious event.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
It is a prep million dollar prep that will get you halfway to HOY if you win, there is always that other half