When Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith hustled Palace Malice to the front Saturday in the 139th Kentucky Derby, it caught Dogwood Stable's president W. Cothran Campbell by complete surprise.
Palace Malice broke alertly but would set suicidal fractions of 22.57 for a quarter-mile, 45.33 for a half-mile and 109.80 for six-furlongs, and was 3 ˝-lengths in front with a half-mile left in the race.
It appeared that Smith was trying to steal the race, but the bay colt couldn't sustain his speed and seemed to tire as the race went on, eventually finishing 12th.
The plan had been for Palace Malice to sit off the pace, in stalking position, to provide the multiple stakes placed colt with tactical options, but those plans never materialized.
An equipment change saw Palace Malice fitted with blinkers, which seemed to sharpen his performance on Saturday, but whether or not the son of Curlin continues to wear them will be a topic of discussion, said Campbell.
A busy spring itinerary saw Palace Malice make three starts in five weeks, and he will be given some time off, with the Preakess Stakes, the middle jewel of Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown, not being an option, said Campbell.
“He'll be going to New York on Monday,” said Campbell, in a phone interview Saturday. “The race pointed us in a new direction. He seemed to come out of the race fine, but we're going to give it a couple of days and let the smoke clear.”
A number of options will be taken into consideration by Campbell, and Palace Malice's trainer, five-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher, for the colt's next start. A great deal of thought will be put into Palace Malice's next race, whether it be at Belmont Park or later in the year at Saratoga, said Campbell.
Saturday's rainfall and off track didn't seem to bother Campbell, based on Palace Malice's previous performace over a racetrack listed as sloppy.
“He trained well, and the horse had run terrifically in the slop at Gulfstream Park earlier this year, so we weren't concerned about the weather.” said Campbell.