Palace Malice winning the Belmont Stakes under Mike SmithPICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos
Palace Malice beats Oxbow in Belmont
Report: USA, Saturday
Belmont Park: Belmont Stakes (Grade 1) 1m4f, dirt, 3yo
PALACE MALICE (Todd Pletcher/Mike Smith) captured the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the US Triple Crown, with a decisive victory over Preakness winner Oxbow in New York on Saturday.
Ron Wood's selection in his Racing Post Spotlight, the son of Curlin was returned nearly a 14-1 chance as he scored by three and a quarter lengths over Oxbow in a race where Kentucky Derby victor Orb took third after flattening out in the stretch.
Unlike Orb and Oxbow, Palace Malice had skipped the Preakness Stakes three weeks previously after losing all chance in the Kentucky Derby when he was lit up by his blinkers and proceeded to set insanely fast fractions before fading to 12th.
With the blinkers off this time, he went to post as one of five runners for his trainer Todd Pletcher and was able to stalk another strong pace (splits of 23.11s and 46.66s) as Freedom Child and Frac Daddy vied for the lead from Oxbow on a track upgraded to fast, despite all the overnight rain.
Oxbow's rider Gary Stevens tried to slow things down on the back stretch, saving enough juice to hold off all challengers except for the more stoutly bred Palace Malice, sent to the lead by Mike Smith after they turned for home.
Oxbow held second by a length and three-quarters from the favourite Orb, who was last in the early stages before attempting to circle the field on the far turn, with Godolphin's Incognito staying on for fourth.
Pletcher was winning his second Preakness after the brilliant filly Rags To Riches in 2007. "We took the blinkers off going the mile and a half today and it worked out well," said the trainer.
"We always felt he had a big win in him. He just needed to put it all together. We got into a good, comfortable rhythm and we felt like, turning up the backside, 'okay, it's developing the way we want it. Let's see if he's good enough'."
Smith was landing the Belmont for the second time, three years after his first success on Drosselmeyer. "The key to the win was blinkers off," said Smith, 47, speaking to the Blood-Horse.
"He just ran through the bridle in the Derby and removing the blinkers made a huge difference. The whole key was being able to get him in that rhythm because he's bred to run all day.
"The Derby was a sneaky good race if you go back and look at it. This race, he was enjoying the whole trip. He was breathing it all in and he was so relaxed."
Owned by Cot Campbell's Dogwood Stable, Palace Malice was winning only his second race in eight career starts, having never before scored outside maiden company.