Palace Malice, a talented, if inconsistent horse, shocked the field with a dominating victory at the 2013 Belmont Stakes.
Led by veteran jockey Mike Smith and trainer Todd Pletcher, Palace Malice didn't run wire-to-wire, but there is no doubting that he deserved to win this race.
Here's how it played out:
On this sunny day, and a track that had survived the deluge from the night before, the 14-horse field was called to the post by football legend Harry Carson:
Frac Daddy and Freedom Child, working from the one and two posts, respectively, got out to an early lead heading into the first turn. That was to be expected, as these two horses like to get out front.
The leads didn't last for long, as Oxbow, the Preakness winner, came out of the turn in front. He was unable to to hold him off, as Palace Malice, who had entered the first turn in fourth, was quickly coming up behind. Orb, the winner of the Kentucky Derby, started out 12 lengths behind, but quickly began to move up to the front.
With just a quarter-mile left, Palace Malice took the lead for good. Oxbow began to tire, but held on to second, while Orb, not having enough in the tank, finished third. Palace Malice won by three-and-a-quarter lengths.
The last stretch of the race proved what type of horse Palace Malice could be. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, had a lot of confidence in the horse, telling Sports Illustrated that "his work two works (before the race) were as good as I've seen a horse work. We were quietly confident coming in."
Palace Malice had gotten off to a great start in the Kentucky Derby, hanging with the leaders in the first quarter of the race. He had, in fact, run the second-fastest half mile in Derby history.
But slowly, he started to drift and ended up finishing 12th. His owner, Cot Campbell, told The Augusta Chronicle that the reason for falling behind was the use of blinkers:
The blinkers sharpened him too much. Mike couldn’t hold him. He said he did everything he could and he still could not apply any restraint.
He set a suicidal pace and you just can’t do that and win the Kentucky Derby. The blinkers were the villain.
The villain, the blinkers, were taken off and it worked wonders. By the end, Palace Malice had built up a pretty comfortable lead.
Palace Malice probably won't go down as one of the greatest horses to ever race. He won just one leg of the Triple Crown and finished 12th in his other appearance. Still, his Belmont run for the carnations proved something. It proved that a horse, when used properly, with a smart jockey and a diligent trainer, can beat those with more talent. Orb, on paper at least, has more talent, but in back-to-back races, Orb was unable to break free.
In this race, Palace Malice's team wisely took off blinkers, knowing that it wouldn't restrain the horse. The jockey, Mike Smith, was able to stay with the pack and surprise Oxbow with the speed from behind.
In the end, that was a winning combination.