Palace Malice takes G1 Met Mile one year since Belmont Stakes victory
By Sean Morris | 06/07/2014 08:43 PM ET
Returning to the scene of his greatest triumph, last year's Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice took the Grade 1, $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap on Saturday at Belmont Park for trainer Todd Pletcher and Dogwood Stable.
Since his victory in the 2013 Belmont Stakes, the son of Curlin had won four graded stakes, but failed to capitalize in three additional Grade 1s.
When Palace Malice drew the rail in a full field of 12, his prospects of breaking through in the Met Mile became tougher. But the post proved to be no obstacle, due in large part to a masterful ride by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
After tracking the early pace along the rail, Velazquez kept his mount toward the inside as the field turned for home, waiting patiently for a chance to launch his rally. With a furlong and a half remaining, a opening finally presented itself, and the 4-year-old colt deftly split the pacesetting Broadway Empire and runner-up Goldencents, going on to a one-length victory.
"I actually thought he got away pretty cleanly," said Pletcher. "I thought he got to a really good spot, and then I got a little concerned that he started losing that spot a little bit. Johnny kept a little bit busy on him, and he found that seam later on that he needed."
According to Pletcher, Palace Malice's Belmont-Met Mile double places him alongside some of the barn's all-time greats.
"He's working his way right up to the top [of the best horses I've trained], that's for sure," Pletcher said. "He can do so many different things effectively. I was very, very concerned when he drew the No. 1 post. That can be difficult to overcome. What can you say about the quality of a horse that's able to do that one year after winning a mile and a half Classic?"
Palace Malice, the 6-5 favorite, returned $4.70 on a $2 win wager and completed the mile in 1:33.56.
Last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents ran gamely to finish second. The 4-year-old colt was unraced since the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap on November 30 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
"We needed a little tuneup," said Leandro Mora, assistant to Doug O'Neill, trainer of Goldencents. "This was his first race since he finished seventh in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap] in November at Aqueduct. Too bad we couldn't have a race in between. We did all we could. We're extremely happy. We ran a great second, so we're fine."
Godolphin Stable's Romansh ran well to finish third, a half-length behind Goldencents. The son of Bernardini had not run since capturing the Grade 3 Excelsior on March 22 at Aqueduct Racetrack for trainer Tom Albertrani.
Shakin It Up, Clearly Now, Broadway Empire, Scarly Charly, Declan's Warrior, Vyjack, Normandy Invasion, Capo Bastone and Moreno completed the order of finish.