SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — A date with destiny, perhaps.
Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice will find out where he stands today after the 144th running of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
A winner of the Belmont Stakes and the Jim Dandy Stakes in his two previous starts, the colt will be facing tough opposition with multiple Grade 1 winners, Orb and Verrazano among the entries.
However, the colt has been training well up to the race, and his workmanlike attitude and professional demeanor have not only endeared him to those who know him intimately, but to racing handicappers and enthusiasts nationwide.
“This horse is very earnest,” said W. Cothran Campbell, Dogwood Stable president. “He's conscientious. He's likable. If he were a human being, he'd be Derek Jeter. I think that says a lot about him. He's right there all the time, delivering the goods and not being noisy about it.”
Palace Malice will start from an outside post position, breaking from the No. 8 hole, in the 1¼-mile, $1 million, Grade 1 race.
“I talked to Mike (Smith, Palace Malice's jockey) last night (Wednesday), and he said the post position is beautiful,” said Campbell. “He said by being on the outside, it's going to let us watch what they do and act accordingly. We'll be able to see what Moreno and Verrazano are doing. We'll figure out what we're going to do. We can monitor the pace. It's a good post. They have a half-mile to sort themselves out, get to the turn going a mile and a quarter. They'll be strung out pretty good. Orb and some of the other ones will be dropping back. I would see it as an ideal post position. I don't think there could have been a real bad one, but this is pretty near perfect.”
Palace Malice is like Dogwood Stable's other Classic winner, Summer Squall, in that they both understand the racing game, Campbell said.
“Summer Squall understood it a little quicker,” said Campbell. “He was more precocious.”
This year's Travers Stakes probably has more drama to it than any in recent memory, with 3-year-old male division honors at stake.
“I think it goes without saying depending on the performance of these three horses, whichever one wins it is going to be in the lead for the 3-year-old title,” said Campbell. “I think we'll run a terrific race, but then you think about it, and you say there's nine horses in this race, and there's eight of them that aren't going to win. I'm always mindful of that.”
Campbell has been able to maintain his equanimity, even during the most stressful times, knowing that fate can change the complexion of a situation at a moment's notice.
“I don't let myself get too high, no matter how good he's training, but as the old saying goes, I wouldn't trade places with anybody,” he said.
Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004.