Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice resumes his quest for the 2014 Horse of the Year title today in the grade I Whitney Handicap at Saratoga Race Course. And based on his attitude recently, the 4-year-colt is ready to run in upstate New York after a nearly two-month break from competition.
“He’s like a prize fighter a day or two before he fights,” said Dogwood president Cot Campbell in a telephone interview. “He knows something is up, and he’s edgy, he’s mean and he wants to get on with it. He bit a guy on the arm earlier this week, and before that, he nipped a little girl’s sleeve.”
Palace Malice hasn’t raced since winning the grade I Metropolitan Handicap by a length on June 7 at Belmont Park. He is undefeated in four starts this year.
In the $1.5 million Whitney, Palace Malice will break from the No. 5 post in the starting gate. His eight challengers in the 1 1/8-mile race include Will Take Charge, who was last year’s champion 3-year-old male.
“The horse that should go for the lead is Moreno, who is in the No. 3 hole,” Campbell said. “Itsmyluckyday also is inside of us, and he’s got some speed. I would love for Palace Malice to be laying third or fourth on the outside in the first turn.”
Palace Malice, who is the even-money favorite on the morning line, and Will Take Charge, who is 4-1, both will carry the Whitney’s top weight of 124 pounds.
Last year at Saratoga, when Palace Malice won the grade II Jim Dandy Stakes, Will Take Charge finished second. But then Will Take Charge captured the grade I Travers Stakes while Palace Malice finished fourth. The last time the two faced each other, Will Take Charge was second in the grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic last November and Palace Malice wound up sixth.
Will Take Charge, who has one victory in five starts this year, “has been a touch off of his game in his last two races, but he’s a very good horse,” Campbell said. “He’s tough.”
Meanwhile, Palace Malice is in the midst of a consistent winning streak that he didn’t enjoy in 2013. Last year, he triumphed in the grade I Belmont Stakes in the addition to the Jim Dandy, but those were the only two wins during his 10-race campaign.
“He was a little bit inexperienced back then,” Campbell said. “I think he made his own problems a time or two, and there were a few problems he didn’t make that he couldn’t cope with. But as he’s gotten older, he’s simply matured. He understands the game, and he likes to win races. He knows how to win now.”
Palace Malice’s career statistics include of seven victories in 16 races and earnings of $2,631,135. He was ranked No. 1 in the July 28 edition of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Top Thoroughbred Poll.
The post time for the Whitney is 5:46 p.m. NBC will cover the race live during a telecast that begins at 5 p.m. It will air locally on Atlantic Broadband Channel 2.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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