Was Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice thinking about a female acquaintance instead of concentrating on beating his rivals when he finished sixth in the Grade I Whitney Handicap on Aug. 2?
Nobody knows for sure, but just in case the bay colt was distracted, the stabling arrangements at trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn at Saratoga Race Course were changed two days following the disappointing loss.
A 4-year-old filly named Princess of Sylmar, who was in a stall next to Palace Malice, was moved to another location.
“She’s about three stalls down from him now, and he has a male horse on either side,” said Dogwood Stable President Cot Campbell in a telephone interview from upstate New York earlier in the week.
Last month, a photo posted on a Palace Malice Facebook page, which is not maintained by Dogwood, showed Palace Malice getting friendly with Princess of Sylmar, who has won four Grade I races, including the 2013 Kentucky Oaks. The two thoroughbreds were leaning out of their respective stalls and touching noses.
“In an effort to leave no stone unturned, the filly was moved,” Campbell said. “It had not presented a visible problem. Palace Malice wasn’t nickering and carrying on. But he is a 4-year-old colt, and there seemed to be no need for him to get clubby with a filly.”
Palace Malice was undefeated in four 2014 races, including the Grade I Metropolitan Handicap, prior to the Whitney. The loss baffled Campbell because the colt had a traffic-free trip, and no physical problems or illnesses were detected afterward.
Palace Malice’s Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez said the colt “went through the whole race not paying attention” and “never showed any interest” in running.
On Aug. 6, Palace Malice returned to the track to train for the first time since the Whitney.
“He jogged once around and showed good energy, soundness and enthusiasm,” Campbell said.
Palace Malice is scheduled to run next in the Grade I Woodward Stakes on Aug. 30 at Saratoga.
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.