Palace Malice's win at the Belmont Stakes was nothing short of perfection.
While not one of the favorites, few can be totally surprised with his run. He's a strong horse with a good trainer in Todd Pletcher and a good jockey in Mike Smith.
There were probably more than a few fans who had counted out Palace Malice after his disappointing finish at the Kentucky Derby. He did something that few horses have ever done in Belmont (h/t ESPN Stats and Info):
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
In case you missed the race or want to watch it again, you can see the full highlights below. Even if you did see it live, it's worth watching again simply for the battle between Palace Malice and Oxbow.
Here are the three moments that warrant the most discussion.
Frac Daddy and Freedom Child Start Strong, Wilt Near the End
The race got off to a blistering start, with Frac Daddy and Freedom Child leading the way. Over 1.5 miles, it's smart to conserve yourself. In terms of horse racing, that's pretty much a marathon. You don't want to expend yourself too early and leave nothing for the end.
Frac Daddy and Freedom Child are prime examples of why. The two were running strong for about a mile. Then the proverbial wheels fell off.
It was Frac Daddy who fell back first, with Freedom Child following. It might be one thing if they simply fell to the middle of the pack, but they pretty much went from the penthouse to the outhouse in a matter of moments.
Freedom Child finished 13th, with Frac Daddy behind in 14th.
At least Frac Daddy's trainer Kenny McPeek took the poor showing in stride:
Frac Daddy cooling out fine. We will learn from this and try again. You get knocked down but you gotta get back up again. Next weekend big!!— Kenny McPeek (@KennyMcPeek) June 8, 2013
He definitely has the first half of the race to be proud of. The other half, not so much.
Palace Malice Overtakes Oxbow
The fans wanted a great race, and that's exactly what they got. On the final turn, Palace Malice and Oxbow were fighting it out. It was Palace Malice who eventually got the advantage—an advantage he didn't surrender.
It was great watching two strong horses with two legendary jockeys facing off. You don't get it much better than that.
Mike Smith ran the race as well as he possibly could have. He timed Palace Malice's final kick to do the most amount of damage, while allowing the horse to save plenty of energy to maintain the lead.
Luckily, he still had enough energy to congratulate himself on Twitter:
I just won the @BelmontStakes— Palace Malice (@PalaceMalice) June 8, 2013
Palace Malice has always looked like a strong horse, but the results just haven't been there. A combination of bad luck and poor runs has robbed him from receiving the spotlight prior to the Belmont.
Now Palace Malice has a Triple Crown win and a moment that should live on for years.
Orb Makes His Push, but Just Doesn't Have It
One of the biggest disappointments at Belmont was the performance of Orb. He finished third, which isn't all that bad, until you consider his results and amount of hype coming into Belmont. He was the heavy favorite and never mounted much of a challenge.
Joel Rosario chose to sit back and wait until later in the race to make his push. That wasn't a huge surprise. With a horse as talented as Orb, he could afford to lie in wait. At least that's what you would have expected.
When Orb did try and make his late run, there just wasn't anything behind it. He moved up to third and that was it. He never challenged Oxbow or Palace Malice.
USA Today's Dan Wolken astutely summed up the fall for Orb since winning the Kentucky Derby:
In five weeks we go from Orb getting hyped as a potential Triple Crown winner to looking like a very ordinary, forgettable Derby winner— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) June 8, 2013
Just wait till next year when the Derby winner is anointed the next Triple Crown winner, only for fans to be shocked when the horse flames out later.
You can see the full results of the race below, courtesy of NBC's 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||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|