Palace Malice won the Metropolitan Handicap to earn a spot in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. (Photos by Eclipse Sportswire)
While he won a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series spot in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with the Met Mile victory, it is much more likely that he will run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Regardless of which Breeders’ Cup race his connections target, the Met Mile performance confirmed his status as arguably the top older male in training and made him a worthy “Getting to Know” subject.
Making 12 starts combined at two and three years of age, Palace Malice made his debut in July of 2012 and broke his maiden at Saratoga Race Course in his second start and, while he continued to hit the board in all but one start, he did not visit the winner’s circle again leading into a start in the 2013 Kentucky Derby.
Perhaps the race Palace Malice was most known for during his early career is his performance in that Kentucky Derby. Equipped with blinkers for the first time, he set a sizzling pace in the 1 ¼-mile race before fading to 12th place. However, five weeks later Palace Malice redeemed himself with a 3 ¼-length victory over Preakness winner Oxbow and Derby victor Orb in the Belmont Stakes.
The Curlin colt earned a 105 Equibase Speed Figure for the victory and he has delivered a speed figure above that mark in every race since then.
“I kept saying I know there’s a big [race] there; I felt like [Palace Malice] had a big one in him,” trainer Todd Pletcher said at the time. “I kept waiting for it to materialize in the afternoon. He got close a couple of times but didn’t quite get it done. It was an emotional win for me because of the Dogwood [Stable] connection. They supported me from the very beginning and to win a big race for them is really gratifying.”
PALACE MALICE WINNING THE BELMONT STAKES
Palace Malice came back in July to win the Jim Dandy Stakes over Will Take Charge by a length, earning a 115 figure, but the colt finished fourth a month later in the Travers Stakes after stumbling at the start. In the Jockey Club Gold Cup, his first run against older horses, he finished second to 6 ¾-length runaway victor Ron the Greek. An off-the-board finish in the Breeder’ Cup Classic ended his season.
However, Palace Malice has made up for those losses this year.
In his 2014 debut, Palace Malice cut it close in the Gulfstream Park Handicap when winning by only a head. The win showed how gutsy he could be as he had to fight back for the win after being passed in the stretch. He earned a career-best 117 Equibase Speed Figure for that victory.
Since then, Palace Malice has been nearly untouchable with a 4 ¾-length victory in the New Orleans Handicap before a 9 ¾-length romp in the Westchester Handicap as a prep for the Met Mile.
While the Met Mile didn’t come with as impressive a margin of victory as his previous two starts, Palace Malice made history when he beat Goldencents by a length on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
“It's pretty extraordinary to have a horse win the Belmont a year ago and come back and win the Met Mile from the No. 1 post, carrying 124 pounds and beating last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner [Goldencents]. In the process, it's an unbelievable accomplishment,” Pletcher said.
2014 MET MILE
Palace Malice has put together strong credentials as the top older horse in America during the first half of the year with four wins in as many starts.
As for his running style, the colt has never been farther back than fifth in a race where he’s ended up in the winner’s circle. But the colt can sit back off the pace if needed, so there shouldn’t be too much concern if races come up with a lot of front-running speed. While not confirmed yet, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Palace Malice race at Saratoga, where he won last year’s Jim Dandy.
Palace Malice is from the first crop of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. A classic winner himself, Curlin was the victor in the 2007 Preakness Stakes before finishing a close second to Rags to Riches in that year’s Belmont Stakes.
Curlin gives Palace Malice a hefty dose of stamina as he won some of the biggest route races in the world during his career. Curlin won races such as the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup on his way to becoming North America’s all-time earnings leader. Palace Malice is just one of quite a few horses who have performed well for Curlin this year. He also is the sire of this year’s Preakness Stakes runner-up Ride On Curlin and the Grade 1-placed turf filly Diversy Harbor. While most of Curlin’s stakes runners are performing best at a mile and longer, the stallion is also the sire of the undefeated stakes winner Stopshoppingdebbie, who has been competitive in stakes from 6 furlongs to 1 1/8 miles.
On the female side, Palace Malice’s dam, Palace Rumor, provides both speed and stamina. Palace Rumor was a stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles on the turf but was also able to win at six furlongs on the grass. But while the mare was a turf performer (she never won on the dirt), her half-siblings seem to have preferred dirt. Two of Palace Rumor’s half-brothers were multiple stakes winners sprinting on the dirt.
One has to go back to Palace Rumor’s grandam, Stellar Affair, to find another stakes winner at a longer distance. Stellar Affair won the 1 1/8-mile Matching Stakes on turf and also is the grandam of 1 ¼-mile Hollywood Gold Cup winner Rail Trip. Like Palace Malice, Rail Trip also was successful when dropping back to a mile. Rail Trip won a stakes at a mile in 2009 and returned to the distance three years later to finish second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
Looking at his pedigree and race record, it is obvious that even if Palace Malice’s connections choose to send him to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, he will be just as competitive in that spot as he would be in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But for those hoping for an easier race for their favorite route horses, don’t get your hopes up. It is almost guaranteed Palace Malice will be loading into the Classic starting gate if he is healthy on Nov. 1, and he most likely will be one of the favorites.