The benefit of time and experience can often mean the difference between moving forward or remaining at the same level. Palace Malice was impressive during his juvenile campaign, demonstrating the promise many had seen after his first two starts, said Todd Pletcher, the trainer of the three-year-old colt, and one of the five Kentucky Derby starters conditioned by the five-time Eclipse Award winning trainer.
Pletcher also will have Verrazano, Revolutionary, Overanalyze and Charming Kitten in Saturday’s 139th running of the 1¼-mile, $2 million, Grade 1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
“He was really impressive as a two-year-old, finishing second in his first start, and winning his second start impressively at Saratoga,” said Pletcher, in a phone interview on Monday morning. “He had some problems that interrupted his season, sore shins. So, we decided to give him some time off.”
Palace Malice seemed to benefit from the respite, and matured physically as he began gearing up for his sophomore campaign, said the trainer. The May 2 foal, made his 2013 debut in a 7-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 19, finishing second over an off track.
“I was impressed with the way he had been training, and was pleased with his first race at Gulfstream even with the speed favoring nature of the track,” said Pletcher.
A strong stakes debut in the Grade 2 Risen Star, where Palace Malice finished third, beaten a head in the 1 1/16-mile race at the Fair Grounds on Feb, 23, seemed to suggest the colt was capable of bigger things. However, racing luck was not on his side in the 1⅛-mile Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on March 30.
“The way his trip unwound in the Louisiana Derby, where he lacked racing room, forced our hand,” said Pletcher. “We had to squeeze in one more race, although it was one more than we wanted.”
However, as luck would have it, fate may not have been on Palace Malice's side in the Lousiana Derby, but it certainly was in his next start at Keeneland in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes on April 13.
“Im glad that he earned his way in, and I've been very pleased with the way he's been coming into the Derby,” said Pletcher.