NEW YORK – A horse with just one career win upset Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Preakness winner Oxbow as Palace Malice shocked the racing world to take the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes. After running a disappointing 12th at the Kentucky Derby last month, Palace Malice did not run in the Preakness two weeks later and the time off certainly paid dividends for a horse who was fresh and ready for the longest test of his career.
One of five entrants in the race from trainer Todd Pletcher, Palace Malice was among the pacesetters from the half-mile point but used a push at the far turn to blow past Preakness winner Oxbow for the lead. Jockey Mike Smith then willed Palace Malice across the finish line to win by 3 ¼ lengths with a time of 2:30.70. Oxbow’s late push landed him second and Orb came in a disappointing third.
In seven career starts, Palace Malice only had one win in his previous seven starts and was an unlikely pick at 13-to-1 but owner Cot Campbell and Pletcher saw something in this horse that made them think he was ideal for the long race and the wide turns at Belmont.
“I was just hoping he’d have an absence of bad luck. Not necessarily have a good break but not have anything go against him,” Campbell said.
The big names on the day couldn’t match Palace Malice as both Orb and Oxbow ran strong races but couldn’t outlast Smith’s trip. Heading into the Preakness three weeks ago, Orb had won his last five races including the Kentucky Derby and was the clear favorite on this wide track.
“He just ran OK. He made a good run around the turn but we had given up so much,” Orb’s trainer Shug McGaughey said. “The speed horses held all up front and we just couldn’t catch them.”
For Hall of Famer Smith, who at 47 years old was the oldest jockey in the race, the win represented his second career Belmont Stakes as he rode Drosselmeyer to victory in 2010.
Pletcher said that Palace Malice had been running as well as any horse he has ever trained heading into the Belmont and Saturday’s performance certainly showed a horse with the stamina and late push to conquer the longest of the three Triple Crown races.
Off a five-week layoff after that disappointing run at Churchill Downs, Palace Malice was ready for an upset and rewarded the only people who believed he could win a race of this caliber.
“Maybe we got to the bottom of him a little bit in the Derby. Maybe that’s what he needed to take another step forward. I know that of the five horses that we ran in the Derby, he was the one that bounced out of it the quickest,” Pletcher said. “Honestly, if we were thinking about running one back in the Preakness, he would have been the one I would have chosen out of the group. We had felt that he had run in the Louisiana Derby, run in the Bluegrass, run in the Kentucky Derby – Mr. Campbell and I talked about it and we felt the right thing to do was not run him back in two weeks and hopefully the five weeks would bring him forward.”
Notes: Power Broker won the Easy Goer Stakes with Rosie Napravnik aboard for the trip, winning the 1 1/16 mile race with a time of 1:41.55…Joel Rosario took Fast Bullet wire-to-wire in the Grade II True North Handicap for trainer Bob Baffert...The Grade II Woody Stephens was also taken by Rosario aboard Forty Tales. “He did everything right and just got the jump in the last minute,” Rosario said. “He really finished. He tried hard, the little horse, and everything set up perfect.”…A tight opening along the rail was taken by Stephanie’s Kitten in the Grade I Longines Just a Game, earning a half-length victory over Better Lucky…In the $500,000 Grade I Woodford Reserve Manhattan, Point of Entry handed John Velazquez a major win in a strong field that included Optimizer.