Palace Malice rebounded from a poor 12th place showing in the 2013 Kentucky Derby to look very impressive in winning the Belmont Stakes. He has gone on to become among the best older horses in the sport as a four year old and is considered one of the strong contenders for the Eclipse ‘Horse of the Year’ award. He may have lost the ‘Horse of the Year’ battle this weekend, however, as he finished a well beaten sixth as a 3-5 favorite in Saturday’s Grade 1 Whitney Stakes.
Finishing 10 1/4 lengths behind Whitney winner Moreno has many horse racing pundits jumping off the Palace Malice bandwagon. Trainer Todd Pletcher still has confidence in his horse though he does admit that his bad performance is ‘a head scratcher’. According to Pletcher nothing post race suggested that the horse was sick or injured including his behavior and medical evaluations. With nothing else to explain why the ‘Horse of the Year’ challenger looked like anything but Pletcher can only concede “Sometimes they throw in a dud, and right now it looks like that’s what he did”. Pletcher said that they’ll continue to ‘check him over’ but barring the late discovery of any medical issues the working theory will remain that Palace Malice simply had a bad race. Pletcher concluded by saying that if they can’t find anything wrong with Palace Malice that “I don’t know what to do other than regroup and start training again.”
Based on the ‘throwing a dud’ scenario his connections are still pointing Palace Malice to the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on August 30. Looking at the Whitney from a more tactical viewpoint it’s not like Palace Malice wasn’t in contention–he was definitely in the mix from off the pace until the far turn when Moreno just got away from him. The bad result does give hope for a good performance in the Woodward. The last time that Palace Malice was beaten by more than 10 lengths was in the 2013 Kentucky Derby when he finished 12th. He came back in his next race to win the Belmont Stakes which was the start of his impressive run.