Palace Malice took home the 2013 Belmont Stakes carnations on Saturday afternoon, and, in doing so, he was the third different thoroughbred to win one of horse racing's Triple Crown events this year.
Mike Smith was the jockey in the saddle at Belmont Park on Saturday, where Palace Malice rebounded from his 12th-place finish at the Kentucky Derby to outlast the field and take home the race known as "The Test of the Champion" in racing circles.
The 14-horse race marked the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes and was the largest field since 1996. Smith captured his second career win at the track (2010 being the other), and trainer Todd Pletcher teamed up with Dogwood Stables to break through with one of the latter's five horses in the field.
The Belmont winner has this post on Twitter (in matter-of-fact fashion, I might add) after his victory:
I just won the @BelmontStakes— Palace Malice (@PalaceMalice) June 8, 2013
Jokes about his name aside, Palace Malice had one heck of a run to capture the third race in the Triple Crown. Racing in post No. 12, Smith and his horse had 15-1 (morning line) odds prior to post time and the starting gate being opened.
As noted by ESPN's Stats & Info, Palace Malice's win was only matched by two other horses in terms of the jump from his Derby finish to his Belmont one:
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
Although the post draw lent no favors to Palace Malice and his racing team, that didn't stop Smith from getting his horse off to a good start. Coming out of the gate strong, Palace Malice beat his fellow outside post mates to the middle of the track and fluctuated between fourth and fifth heading into the first turn.
He then stayed with leaders Frac Daddy and Freedom Child well into the second turn, sticking right behind Oxbow and claiming the fourth spot for good as the first long stretch hit all of the horses.
Oxbow and Freedom Child then traded leads as Frac Daddy began to fade (all the way into last place), while Palace Malice stayed firm and moved up to third place behind the two leaders heading into the third turn.
Through the midway point of the race, Smith's ability to stay in toward the front of the track on the slightly wet dirt and avoid having to charge back down the stretch became a huge advantage the rest of the way. Pletcher said after the race that Smith's rhythm was huge for Palace Malice's chances, according to America's Best Racing:
With Revolutionary closing fast, Freedom Child then decided he was spent, dropping back out of contention while Oxbow and Palace Malice battled for the top spot heading into the last bit of track that curved around the rail.
Smith then pulled out the last bit of malice toward the field his horse had to offer in pulling away around the final turn.
As Orb mounted his late comeback to try and prove his Preakness gaffe as just that, Palace Malice began to pull away. He increased his lead to about three lengths in the midway point of the backstretch, and by that time, neither of the previous two Triple Crown winners had enough in the tank to complete the lengthy win.
The win was Palace Malice's second career victory and his first since winning a maiden race back in 2012. He also has four other top-three finishes in his racing career, but none were bigger than the 1.5-mile victory he posted on Saturday afternoon in Elmont.
With Pletcher, Smith and Palace Malice all big winners on Saturday, there's little else to talk about when it comes to the current three-year-olds we've seen over the past few months.
A a new crop of contenders will emerge over the next year, but it's always nice to pause and appreciate the great moments of horses that will go down in Triple Crown history forever.
On Saturday, Palace Malice became one of those horses.