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Palace Malice wins the Belmont Stakes

Palace Malice: Belmont Stakes winner staked claim to be leading colt

  PICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos  

US Classics produce three winners but no star

WORLD CLASS: an analysis of the international scene according to Racing Post Ratings

TRINNIBERG (2012) and Palace Malice (2013) both set insane fractions in the Kentucky Derby. But while Trinniberg used that pace to later land the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Palace Malice took it to another extreme by winning the biggest test of endurance in the US calendar on Saturday.

Palace Malice was the spoiler at Churchill Downs on his previous start. His attempt at setting a new land speed record ruined the chances of 15 of the 19 Derby runners - including his own.

But without headgear the son of Curlin ran with more restraint in the Belmont Stakes and proved what Todd Pletcher had been saying all along - that this one was near the top of this so-so bunch of sophomore colts.

Of course Pletcher didn't use the term 'so-so', but it's hard to conclude anything more positive. Look at the key facts: (i) the Belmont was the only Classic run at a pace conducive to finding the best horse, (ii) the Preakness and Kentucky Derby winners finished second and third, making the form look the most solid of the three Classics, but (iii) the winner had won just one of seven starts going into the race.

There are obviously many other factors to consider but the big picture is that any one of these Classic winning colts could be argued as best in the division, and none of them looks outstanding.

The final Classic helps put the previous two into perspective. The Kentucky Derby result was always open to scrutiny with the first, second, third and fifth all coming from last or near last off the furious pace (set by Palace Malice).

Given the way that race was set up the bare form can only be rated around the horses who sat off the early pace (Orb, Golden Soul, Revolutionary and Mylute).

Those four have now all had chances to show what they can do subsequently and with all failing to live up to the initial assessment, Orb's Kentucky Derby win has been trimmed back to an RPR of 122.

Oxbow finished best of those who chased the early pace in the Kentucky Derby, hanging on for sixth, and two weeks later he threw his hat into the ring for leading three-years-old honours by winning the Preakness.

The problem with the Preakness was that Oxbow got a solo out in front, so that race can only really be judged on the clock. The winner remains, therefore, on an RPR of 119 for that win.

Then we come to the Belmont. The early pace was solid. Oxbow and Palace Malice were always in the leading group of four, while Orb was held up near last. He made a big move in the bend but was treading water along with everything else in the straight and failed to improve his position.

The problem in the Belmont was the distance. American racehorses aren't bred to run this far and even the winner, who came home strongest, slowed to 27.58s for the closing quarter mile - he was essentially the one who slowed down the slowest.

Palace Malice may have had an advantage over Oxbow and Orb on Saturday in having skipped the middle Classic, thereby arriving with fresher legs for this dour stamina test. That said, he decisively beat the form horses off a true pace, so it's not all bad.

All this leaves the impossible question: which Classic winner was 'best'? Just look at how they ran in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont: Palace Malice (defeat after setting furious pace, didn't run, won), Oxbow (defeat after chasing furious pace, won, second), Orb (won, ran flat in fourth, mildly excusable third given positioning over the distance). The choice (similar to: where would you like to be punched?) is yours.

Palace Malice earned an RPR of 122 for Saturday's win. It was his second win in eight starts - his sole previous success coming in a Saratoga maiden way back in August. A rating of 122 is on a par with recent Belmont winners.

Conclusion: just like the French and English Derbies highlighted in Europe last week, the American three-year-old division remains wide open.

The hopes for the rest of the season reside mainly in the Pletcher barn, with Palace Malice an obvious contender for the big sophomore prizes now he has found his stride.

If we're looking for a real star among the three-year-olds, however, it could pay to ignore the colts Classics altogether, with leading filly Dreaming Of Julia and Kentucky Derby flop Verrazano remaining the only three-year-olds who have shown that touch of star quality which seemed lacking in the Triple Crown races.

The dream is still alive with the filly, who looks set to get back in the winning groove in the Mother Goose next week (22 June). She currently leads the three-year-old standings in the US (alongside Orb and Palace Malice) with an RPR of 122 for her runaway success in the Gulfstream Oaks.

TOP OF THE CLASS: Palace Malice 122 Todd Pletcher (US) (Belmont Stakes, Belmont Park, 1m4f, 8 June)


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Black Caviar (Aus)
Lightning Stakes

Game On Dude (US)
Santa Anita Hcap
3 Dawn Approach (Ire) 2,000 Guineas 127T
4 Farhh (GB) Lockinge Stakes 126T

St Nicholas Abbey (Ire) Coronation Cup 126T
6 Animal Kingdom (US) Dubai World Cup

Orfevre (Jap)
Osaka Hai
Point Of Entry (US)
Gulfstream Park Turf Hcap
  Ron The Greek (US) Sunshine Millions Classic 124D
  Society Rock (GB) Duke Of York
  Wise Dan (US) Maker's 46 Mile Stakes 124T



Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Black Caviar (Aus)
Lightning Stakes
2 Dawn Approach (Ire) 2,000 Guineas 127
3 Farhh (GB) Lockinge Stakes 126

St Nicholas Abbey (Ire) Coronation Cup 126
5 Orfevre (Jap) Osaka Hai 125
Point Of Entry (US)
Gulfstream Park Turf Hcap
  Society Rock (GB) Duke Of York
  Wise Dan (US) Maker's 46 Mile Stakes 124
9 Fenomeno (Jap) Tenno Sho (Spring) 123

Gold Ship (Jap) Hanshin Daishoten
  Military Attack (HK) QEII Cup 123

Magician (Ire) Irish 2,000 Guineas 123

Shea Shea (SAF) Al Quoz Sprint 123



Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Game On Dude (US)
Santa Anita Hcap 128
2 Ron The Greek  (US) Sunshine Millions Classic
3 Dreaming Of Julia (US) Florida Oaks 122
Orb (US) Kentucky Derby 122
Palace Malice (US) Belmont Stakes 122

Royal Delta (US) Sabin Stakes

Sahara Sky (US) Met Mile 122
8 Flat Out (US) Westchester Stakes 121

Graydar (US)
Donn Handicap

Ultimate Eagle (US)
San Pasqual



Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Animal Kingdom (US)
Dubai World Cup
2 Mental (UAE) Al Shindagha Sprint 121
3 Red Cadeaux (GB) Dubai World Cup 120
4 African Story (UAE) Burj Nahar
5 Comma To The Top (US) Los Angeles Handicap 118
Hunter's Light (UAE)
Al Maktoum Challenge R2/3
  Reynaldothewizard (UAE) Mahab Al Shimaal/Golden Shaheen 116
  Soft Falling Rain (SAF) Godolphin Mile 116
9 Balmont Mast (IRE) Al Maktoum Challenge R1 115
  Essence Hit Man (Can) Jacques Cartier Stakes 115
  Moonwalk In Paris (UAE) Firebreak Stakes 115
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