TRUE NORTH S. | PURSE: $250,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP | 6 FURLONGS
Antonino Miuccio's Palace overcame a bad stumble exiting the gate in Friday's Grade 2, $250,000 True North to post a three-quarter length victory on the wire of the swiftly-run six-furlong sprint. Sent off the 9-1 fifth choice in the seven-horse field, the Linda Rice trainee returned a nice win payout of $20.60 to his faithful backers.
Marriedtothemusic gunned it when the stalls opened and took control on the front end through speedy splits of :23 and :44 2/5. The four-year-old was never left alone, though, as Palace, Bakken, Dads Caps and Integrity all pressed the fleet-footed front runner. Bakken drew even with Marriedtothemusic rounding the turn, and Palace wasn't far behind.
Those two continued battling as Marriedtothemusic faded in the lane, with Palace getting the win over his rail-skimming rival while running down the center of the track. The City Zip five-year-old stopped the clock in 1:08 1/5 over Belmont Park's fast main track.
"I knew there was a lot of pace in the race, and I knew he had a chance to win because he can close, and that's what happened," jockey Jose Ortiz said. "He broke very sharp and was in perfect position. When I asked him to go, he went.
"A good horse, a lot of class. Linda did a tremendous job with him."
Bakken was best-of-the-rest as the 2-1 favorite, a length clear of Salutos Amigos. It was another 3 1/4 lengths back to Eastwood, while Dads Caps, Marriedtothemusic and Integrity completed the order under the wire. Royal Currier and Well Spelled were both withdrawn.
"I had a beautiful trip; I was just second-best today," stated Bakken's rider, Javier Castellano. "We hooked up with the winner at the top of the stretch, and he just showed a little more today."
Palace earned his second graded victory in this spot, having captured his penultimate 2013 start in the Fall Highweight Handicap. That was the bay's third straight stakes win after also scoring in the Chowder's First and Hudson Handicap, and he closed out 2013 with a second in the Gravesend Handicap on December 21.
In two prior 2014 starts, Palace was runner-up in the Gold and Roses and fourth in the General George Handicap before Friday's True North score. That win improved his record to 18-9-4-2 and he has now banked $719,550 in lifetime earnings.
"He was a little off form in the winter after the Gravesend, and frankly, he just didn't care for the inner track so I took him to Maryland for the General George," Rice explained. "He bled through the Lasix and ran really a subpar effort for him, so I turned him out for 60 days, and he came back great."
"He was barely fit enough to run, but he trained very well coming into the race. The race looked like it had a lot of speed and it set up well for him, and he really likes Belmont."
Bred in New York by The Peter J. Callahan Revocable Trust, Palace was purchased for $160,000 from the 2011 OBS March Sale of Selected Two-Year-Olds in Training. He is out of the winning End Sweep mare Receivership and is a half-brother to to the stakes-placed Retriever. Palace's second dam is Grade 2-placed Alarming Prospect, making his dam a half-sister to Grade 2 heroine French Park.