08/22/2013 3:00PM

Byron King: Palace Malice can get it done in Travers Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Palace Malice is my selection to defeat Verrazano and Orb in Saturday’s Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

This content is part of a free preview of DRF Plus. Click to learn more.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – This is a game where even if you’re handicapping well, accurately selecting one-third of the races you pick, that still leaves you wrong two times more often.

And when it came to analyzing the chances of Palace Malice in the Belmont and Jim Dandy stakes, I certainly was wrong in my assessment. In those races, I discounted him for his prior history of coming up short in tight finishes, and in the Jim Dandy, I knocked him for sluggishly finishing his final quarter-mile of the Belmont in 27.58 seconds.

Count me a hater no longer. Palace Malice is my selection to defeat Verrazano and Orb in Saturday’s Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

Although not as flashy on paper as either of his two principal rivals – not having compiled a 6-for-7 record, like Verrazano, or being the Kentucky Derby winner, like Orb – he enters with plenty of positive characteristics in his past performances.

First, form. He probably is second-best in this department behind Verrazano, having won the Belmont and Jim Dandy leading up to this race.

Second, he obviously loves Saratoga, having compiled a 2-for-2 record over the track.

And third, he is perfectly drawn in post 8, giving jockey Mike Smith the opportunity to place the horse in his preferred stalking, pressing position on the outside.

DRF Plus Preview

Although those attributes are apparent in the past performances, he just doesn’t look like the type the public is going to jump all over.

Verrazano, the 2-1 morning-favorite, is sure to get pounded after winning the Haskell by 9 3/4 lengths and earning a 116 Beyer Speed Figure, and the suspicion is that Orb, at 4-1 on the morning line, likely will pass Palace Malice as the second betting choice by post time, having won the Derby at 1 1/4 miles, and with clockers touting his morning drills leading up to the race.

This could leave Palace Malice in the 3-1 range, which would represent fair odds on the Belmont Stakes winner.

Majestic Hussar offers value

A race before the Travers, a full field of 14 was entered for the King’s Bishop, with horsemen eager to take a shot in a Grade 1 race that doesn’t include one of the nation’s elite 3-year-olds.

The late-running Forty Tales, having won 5 of 7 starts, including the Amsterdam Stakes over the Saratoga strip, is the most likely winner and seemingly will be set up well by the abundance of speed in the seven-furlong King’s Bishop.

But against a field as deep as this one, the prospect of backing a late runner like him at his 5-2 morning-line odds doesn’t excite, and he might dip to 2-1 come post time.

From a value perspective, a more appealing prospect is Majestic Hussar, a 10-1 shot who notably beat Palace Malice in an optional-claiming race in January in the slop at Gulfstream.

That race, along with two other victories, are eye-catching running lines in his past performances, with the others being a maiden win at Saratoga last year and his comeback victory in an Aug. 4 optional-claiming race at the Spa.

In the latter race, his first since February, he earned a career-best 98 Beyer and did so after dueling for the lead along the inside.

Many will expect Majestic Hussar to bounce in the King’s Bishop because he’ll be racing on less than three weeks’ rest and will be facing a speedier, classier group. But to me, this horse merely ran back to the fine race he ran in defeating Palace Malice, and having shown that he can win from a stalking position in his career debut, he might not be done in by fast splits in the King’s Bishop.

Expect him to lay within a few lengths of speedster Let Em Shine and pounce turning into the stretch.

Wildcat Lily brings consistency

As in the King’s Bishop, I’m seeking value in the Test, expecting Sweet Lulu to go off as an underlay off a 3-for-3 record and a last-race 99 Beyer.

Admittedly, most everything about Sweet Lulu suggests she is a filly of quality, including her works, which have been classified as “breezing” by California clockers, an infrequent designation there.

But she hasn’t raced on dirt or ever shipped outside of Southern California, potential areas of vulnerability.

Florida invader Wildcat Lily, a former claimer sitting at 6-1 on the morning line, offers the most betting upside. She’s been first or second in seven straight races, including when second in the Grade  1 Prioress on the Saratoga surface. And, having strung together three straight Beyers of 90 or higher, she is consistently quick.