(Curlin x Palace Rumor, by Royal Academy)
- Trainer: Todd Pletcher
- Jockey: John Velazquez
- Owned by: Dogwood Stables
- Career Record: 11:3-4-1
- Earnings: $1,481,135
- 2013 Record: 9:2-3-1
- 2013 accomplishments: G1 classic winner (Belmont Stakes)
- Santa Anita record: 0:0-0-0
- TrueNicks rating: “A+” Variant 4.66
- Highest Equibase Speed Figure of 2013: 115 (unchanged from last year)
- Sire Curlin won this race in 2007, was 4th* in 2008.
- Lost last prep [2nd, Jockey Club Gold Cup (I), by 6 3/4 lengths]
- Trainer has yet to win the Classic
- Loses regular jockey Mike Smith to Game On Dude
- Aims to be the first 3-year-old to win the Classic since Raven’s Pass in 2008
Summary: A bizarre success story in what was one of the most testing Belmont runnings in years, Palace Malice unexpectedly triumphed in the Triple Crown’s third leg after trying time after time to win past his maiden break. Part of the first foal crop to race by the mighty Curlin, Palace Malice has already fulfilled some great expectations, but was often the victim of many poor trips and outer post draws. While he’ll be out of his “comfort zone,” New York, he’s quite possibly the most menacing of the three-year-olds.
Prep Schedule: Debuting to much fanfare in January at Gulfstream Park, P.M. struggled on the speed-favoring, sloppy-sealed going to run second-fiddle to the speed demon Majestic Hussar in his sophomore debut, beaten a fair 2 1/4 lengths. A month later, he shipped to Fair Grounds to try the 1 1/16 mile Risen Star (II), getting stuck with a bad outer post and went 2-3 wide the entire time and 4-wide entering the straight, racing a respectable 3rd beaten just a half-length. In March, he went to the Louisiana Derby (II), this time breaking from the 2-hole and making a strong middle move only to get blocked in traffic, placing 7th overall beaten just as many lengths. Switching to poly for the Blue Grass (I), blinkerless Palace Malice looked home free taking the lead in the stretch only to be passed late by Java’s War, beaten a frustrating neck. In the Kentucky Derby (I), he put the blinkers back on and took off, setting a sizzling pace in the sloppy/sealed going only to fade late to 12th. Taking a breather, he composed himself in time for the Belmont (I), and made a dramatic middle move while going 4-wide on the turns to win going away by 3 1/4 lengths over both Orb and Oxbow. He kept the water boiling next out in the Jim Dandy (II), sitting pretty off the pace before seizing the lead in the stretch to win by a comfortable length. Unfortunately in the Travers, post position luck came back to haunt P.M., and the colt broke very poorly and lingered way back until late, where he was able to make a good move in the stretch to brush up for 4th, beaten 3 1/4 lengths. Going against older horses for the first time, he seemed to have sealed the deal in a rating game, circling around the outside only to be ousted by a clever rail trip by Ron the Greek, the only horse who beat him that day.
Physique: Looking better than ever, Palace Malice has developed into a good-looking three-year-old who could probably spread his abilities across multiple distances and could probably try turf if he really wanted to. His body reads what he’s already proven: a speedy horse who is able to stay all day, with good definition across all fronts.
Running Style: Mid-pack or just off the pace
Pros: He’s shown he can be fast as well as stay 12 furlongs and he is bred to be a Classic horse. Unlike a lot of other three-year-olds at this time, he is probably raring to go in time for the fall championships, and he showed he’s more than ready to counter older horses following the Jockey Club Gold Cup (I), which he could have won had the inside track not been so biased. His off-the-pace style will also help a lot in this speedy race.
Cons: Todd Pletcher does not have a very good championship record, this is a fact. Had the Breeders’ Cup been in New York, I would readily have Palace Malice on speed dial to win this gig.
Final Word: Palace Malice looks better than he ever has, and he actually had one of the more impressive Travers performances; not many horses can recover like that after a poor break and make up that much ground to miss the board by less than 2 lengths. However, it’s hard to dodge the Pletcher albatross, the poor trip record, and lack of wins outside of New York. He’s a toss-up between a legitimate win candidate and a possibly bad bet when you consider both sides of the coin.