GP HANDICAP | PURSE: $250,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP | GRADE 2 | ONE-MILE
Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice, on the shelf since an even sixth-place finish in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic, showed no signs of rust with a gritty victory in the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap March 8 at the Florida racetrack.
With John Velazquez riding for trainer Todd Pletcher, Palace Malice rallied from fifth early in the one-mile race to take command in the lane. He lost the lead to the rallying Uncaptured, but came back along the rail to defeat a closing Golden Ticket by a head. Uncaptured finished a half-length back in third after his big move.
The early fractions, set by the battling Falling Sky and Itsmyluckyday, were :23.34 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and :45.46 for the half-mile. Palace Malice took over on the far turn and had the lead through six furlongs in 1:09.21 as the top pair began to fade, and the winner completed the one mile in a sharp 1:33.80 on a fast track.
Palace Malice, the favorite, paid $4.60, $3, and $2.20. Golden Ticket returned $5.20 and $3.40, while Uncaptured paid $4.80 to show. The exacta paid $23 and the trifecta returned $87.80 in the seven-horse field.
Palace Malice, winner of last year's Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes as a 3-year-old, is by Curlin out of the Royal Anthem mare Palace Rumor. He was bred in Kentucky by William S. Farish.
"He pressed solid fractions, and was carrying top weight and went a little wide," Pletcher said. "It looked like they took a couple big runs at him and he fought back. It was a heck of a horse race and a huge effort off the layoff.
"Those are good horses, too. You've got a Travers Stakes winner and a Prince of Wales winner and the runner-up in the Preakness Stakes. It was a good race, I thought."
Pletcher said he and Dogwood chief Cot Campbell talked and are considering the grade I Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park as an early-season goal.
"I was delighted with today," Campbell said. "It's a good feeling to see him come back like this in his first race in four months. He was tested pretty severely. I thought [Golden Ticket] would run by him, but he fought back."
Velazquez said he expected Palace Malice, who started from the outside post in a field of seven, to be wide on the backstretch.
"That's where we wanted to be anyway," he said. "That's where we broke. We had a great position and we wanted to make sure we kept our position. The only thing was that I didn't want to be that close. Once he got to the top of the stretch he kind of idled a little bit and kind of got surprised by the horses on the outside of him, but I got after him and he responded right away.
"He got to the front and thought he was finished, basically. [Uncaptured] came on the outside of him and surprised him, but he got back into the game. I hit him and he responded. He was very gutsy."
Palace Malice cleared $1.5 million in earnings with the victory. The colt now has four wins, four seconds, and one third in 13 starts.