The much-hyped storyline heading into the 2013 Belmont Stakes was the battle between Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow. The duo came into the race as prohibitive favorites, their trainers and owners expecting them to duke it out down the stretch for Triple Crown supremacy.
For once, expectations came to fruition. The problem was that battle between Orb and Oxbow was for second place.
Leaving the Kentucky Derby and Preakness race winners in the dust, 15-1 underdog Palace Malice, via Bovada, gave this Triple Crown season its third different champion in Saturday's race at Belmont Park. This is the sixth time in the last eight years that the Triple Crown has been a three-way split.
As noted by SportsCenter's Twitter feed, Oxbow was able to hold a charging Orb to finish in second place:
BREAKING: Palace Malice wins the 145 Belmont Stakes. Oxbow (Preakness winner) and Orb (Kentucky Derby winner) finished 2nd and 3rd.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 8, 2013
Palace Malice won the race with relative comfort, extending his lead to 3.25 lengths by the time he crossed the finish line. Palace Malice finished the race in 2:30.70, according to The Associated Press. That mark is less than a second better than Ruler on Ice's time from a year ago, indicating a relatively slow field thanks to the extremely fast track in Elmont, N.Y., on Saturday. Palace Malice recouped a purse of $600,000 for the victory.
Palace Malice is trained by Todd Pletcher, who had five different horses in the field. This marks his second Belmont win in the past six years, the other being Rags to Riches in 2007.
Here is a look at how the rest of the field played out, courtesy of NBC's telecast:
|1||12||Palace Malice||Mike Smith||Todd Pletcher|
|2||7||Oxbow||Gary Stevens||D. Wayne Lukas|
|3||5||Orb||Joel Rosario||Shug McGaughey|
|4||6||Incognito||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Kiaran McLaughlin|
|5||9||Revolutionary||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher|
|6||13||Unlimited Budget||Rosie Napravnik||Todd Pletcher|
|7||3||Overanalyze||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher|
|8||11||Vyjack||Julien Leparoux||Rudy Rodriguez|
|9||14||Golden Soul||Robby Albarado||Dallas Stewart|
|10||10||Will Take Charge||Jon Court||D. Wayne Lukas|
|11||4||Giant Finish||Edgar Prado||Anthony Dutrow|
|12||8||Midnight Taboo||Garrett Gomez||Todd Pletcher|
|13||2||Freedom Child||Luis Saez||Tom Albertrani|
|14||1||Frac Daddy||Alan Garcia||Ken McPeek
Much like Orb a few weeks ago, very few came in expecting a result of significance from Palace Malice. The three-year-old colt failed to enter the Preakness Stakes after a frustrating 12th-place run at the Kentucky Derby. Of the five horses Pletcher entered into the field, Palace Malice was one of the least talked-about—a forgotten member of the fearsome fivesome.
Following the race, ESPN Stats & Info noted that Palace Malice is the third-worst Derby finisher to ever win the Belmont:
Palace Malice: wins Belmont Stakes after 12th-place finish in Kentucky Derby. That is the 3rd-worst Derby Finish by a Belmont Stakes winner— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 8, 2013
Starting the race on the 12th post, Palace Malice faced the tricky proposition of trying to find inside position. Smith, a Hall of Fame jockey, inched his horse ever so slowly on the inside early in the race, guiding Palace Malice with the level of comfort you only see from the best.
While Palace Malice was trying to work his way to the inside, the starting gun opened with Frac Daddy bolting immediately to the front of the field, with Freedom Child nipping close at his heels. By the time they got through the first turn of the mile-and-a-half track, Frac Daddy continued to hold court while Oxbow made his initial push to the front.
The Preakness winner soared up to third place, as Joel Rosario kept Orb back—likely conserving energy for a final triumphant push to the front. Palace Malice was running fifth through the first turn, being taken wide into the corner to avoid the fray.
The fivesome of horses pushing the field upward stayed relatively calm into the straight stretch, though Smith used that opportunity to send Great Finish back to an 11th-place finish. Now in fourth at the half-mile mark, the entire field watched on as Oxbow did what he does best—rocket to the front.
The Preakness winner and Freedom Child paced the field for a bit from there, taking their lead into the far turn with a few lengths working to their advantage. However, by midway through the turn, it became abundantly clear that Palace Malice would be charging to the front. Smith worked his horse around Oxbow, putting a stranglehold on the race that he would not relinquish.
The move was swift, beautiful and everything you'd expect from a horse with a Hall of Famer on top. Palace Malice continued his triumphant speed down the back stretch, opening a gaping lead over the field for the win.
While Orb would ultimately come charging forth, it was too late. This was Palace Malice's day. Everyone else—even Triple Crown race winners—were merely hoping for second place.