SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Palace Malice symbolizes professionalism.
“I think it’s unusual that one makes the steady progress that he had from the time we got him,” said Cot Campbell, Dogwood Stable president. “We liked him, and we liked him more and more as he’s progressed.”
Palace Malice will be among the entries for Saturday’s Travers Stakes at storied Saratoga Race Course. The 3-year-old colt, trained by five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, will try to add to his impressive résumé by winning the 1¼-mile, $1 million race.
The son of Curlin, who was trained by Brad Stauffer over the Aiken Training Track, was a late foal. But his maturation has seen him blossom with victories in the Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy.
“Being a May foal, he has a right now to come into his own,” said Campbell. “He’s running against a horse like Verrazano, who is a January foal, and Orb, who is a February foal. He’s just a late foal.”
Palace Malice’s past three races seem to indicate that he’s finding his best stride. That stretch started with a second-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes, followed by the consecutive victories at Belmont Stakes and Saratoga.
“He’s got a right to be getting better,” said Campbell. “That’s what happened and without a hiccup. The only problem that has persisted for him has been bad luck.”
Palace Malice is running in the 144th edition of the Travers Stakes, during Saratoga Race Course’s 150th anniversary. That, along with the outstanding field for the race, has given this Midsummer Derby added meaning.
“I think it’s very important,” said Campbell. “You check with a lot of the old-timers here. They’ll tell you a race over the racetrack is a hell of a big advantage. It wouldn’t surprise me to see if he would be favored at post time. It doesn’t matter whether he is or not, because he’s not going to know it. I think that he’s had a race over the racetrack, and a very good race is significant.”
A decisive favorite in his last start, the Jim Dandy Stakes on July 27, Palace Malice is the 5-to-2 second choice on the morning line for the Travers.
“He figured to be right there,” said Campbell. “The way he’s trained. He always counts himself. He acts like a horse that has running on his mind.”
And it’s that professionalism that seems to set him apart, an intangible quality that when added to his other attributes, creates a formidable combination of variables.
“It’s not that he’s some sluggish horse that comes out here, and you have to have a work mate for him,” said Campbell. “He’s by himself and anxious to train. So, he’s been that way all along. He was certainly that way before the Jim Dandy. Todd says he’s better than he’s ever been.”
Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004.
1 Romansh 12-to-1
2 Orb 4-to-1
3 Verrazano 2-to-1
4 Golden Soul 20-to-1
5 Will Take Charge 10-to-1
6 Moreno 12-to-1
7 War Dancer 15-to-1
8 Palace Malice 5-to-2
9 Transparent 10-to-1