After finishing in 12th place at the Kentucky Derby, trainer Todd Pletcher decided to keep Palace Malice from running in the Preakness Stakes, opting instead to rest his horse with the potential goal of running at Belmont.
It doesn't take an expert to see Pletcher's game plan paid off. That said, this result wasn't one many people expected, as ESPN Stats & Info points out. The horse's 12th-place finish at the Derby was the third-worst finish of any horse that went on to win at Belmont:
Oxbow and Orb both ran in the first two races, with Orb winning at the Derby and Oxbow winning the Preakness in wire-to-wire fashion.
In the end they didn't have the stamina to keep up with Palace Malice down the home stretch as he dramatically and unrelentingly pulled away from the field after the final turn.
Here's a look at the final standings, courtesy of the official NBC broadcast:
|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|
Clearly, fresh legs had everything to do with Palace Malice's victory.
Orb and Oxbow proved their worth in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Furthermore, their second- and third-place finishes in this race prove they had plenty of speed and stamina to perform well on the mile-and-a-half track at Belmont Park.
But neither horse could match the breakaway speed Palace Malice was able to pour on down the final stretch. The final two furlongs belonged to Pletcher's horse, and no other horse in the field had a chance of matching Palace Malice's final sprint.
This year's Triple Crown races were won by three different horses, and it's been 35 years since a horse won all three races. Affirmed was the last horse to do it, way back in 1978.
Since the year 2000, seven horses—including Palace Malice—have won the Belmont after running in the Derby and then skipping the Preakness.
With the feat of winning a Triple Crown becoming more and more elusive, we may see more trainers with horses who don't win the Derby opt out of the Preakness in favor of resting their horses for the Belmont.
For Pletcher, jockey Mike Smith, Cot Campbell and Dogwood Stables, the strategy worked to perfection. It was Smith's second victory at the Belmont Stakes—another feather in the cap of his illustrious career.
For Palace Malice, this victory propelled him into the history books. Winning "The Test of Champions" is no easy feat. Palace Malice is a name that will live on forever as his descendants attempt to match his achievements on the track—or better.
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