Palace Malice blew past the field down the final stretch of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, but his three-and-a-quarter-length victory was not among the best performances in Belmont Park's storied history.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith understands better than most how to make adjustments, and that's precisely what he did with Palace Malice in terms of style and pacing. His mount was good enough to beat out Preakness winner Oxbow and Orb, the pre-race favorite who won the Kentucky Derby.
Below is a look at the results, as well as video of the entire race in Elmont, N.Y., which will be used to break down how the action unfolded.
|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||Johh Velazquez||Todd Pletcher|
|8||11||Vyjack||Julien Leparoux||Rudy Rogriguez|
|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|
The time of 2:30.70 that Palace Malice posted was the fifth-slowest over the past two decades, according to BelmontStakes.com, and the jockey for two of those lagging times was Smith.
Things didn't start out at a deliberate pace, though, as the early going presented a challenge for all 14 horses in the field. Frac Daddy pushed out in front and completed the first quarter-mile in a blistering 23.11 seconds.
Palace Malice set the early tone at Churchill Downs, but faded all the way to 12th by the end of the race. This time around, he took a bit more time to make his move, but was still near the front throughout.
In fact, that was the most impressive element of Palace Malice's triumph—how well he bounced back from that perceptive setback. ESPN Stats & Info provided historical context for the extreme turnaround Palace Malice and Smith experienced:
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
When everyone inevitably got fatigued over the course of the grueling 1.5-mile track at Belmont Park, two horses made significant surges: Orb and Palace Malice.
Orb broke too late, though, and was too far behind the early wave to come back well enough to challenge at the finish. Meanwhile, Smith rode Palace Malice to perfection and put distance between him, Oxbow and all others over the final furlongs.
America's Best Racing shared a special exchange between Oxbow jockey Gary Stevens and Smith in the heat of competition:
It may not have been the swiftest "Run for the Carnations," but it was nevertheless successful for Smith and trainer Todd Pletcher, who got off the skids for his first Triple Crown victory of 2013.
The explosion that Palace Malice had down the final straightaway was exhilarating. He displayed exceptional endurance, too—a far cry from what he did in the Kentucky Derby.
Adding to the achievement was the fact that an Oxbow-Orb rematch was among the top storylines coming in, and both battled strongly to the finish—only to be beaten by Palace Malice.
Which part of Palace Malice's win diminishes its place in history the most?
Having said all of that, given that this is a year in which three different horses won Triple Crown races, it likely won't be one of the most renowned runs to the winner's circle ever.
Palace Malice, at 15-to-1 approaching the starting gates, was a long shot, but not so counted out as to be a massive shocker, as opposed to 70-to-1 champion Sarava in 2002.
Combine those two aforementioned aspects with the relatively slow winning time, and Palace Malice probably won't go down as one of the better or more memorable performances in Belmont Stakes history.