Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 10/7/14
Palace Malice wrestled the lead away from Oxbow at the top of the stretch and went on to win Horse Racing’s third jewel of the Triple Crown series, the 2013 Belmont Stakes, by 3 ¼ lengths in Elmont, NY this past Saturday. Oxbow, the 2013 Preakness winner, stayed on well to hold second while 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb, who unleashed a powerful rally on the turn but flattened out late, finished third. At the start, long-shot Frac Daddy cut blistering fractions of :23 for the first quarter and :46.3 for the half mile with Freedom Child and Oxbow in close pursuit. At that point, Frac Daddy quickly retreated and Oxbow, who was once again ridden by Gary Stephens, found himself on the lead with Freedom Child and the eventual winner right on his heels. They continued the quick early pace as they went six furlongs in 1:10.4. Palace Malice took the lead at the quarter pole (a mile in 1:36.2) and slowly inched away for the conclusive win and paid $29.60, $11.20, and $6.70 The son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin raced without blinkers in the “Test of Champions.” He wore them in the Kentucky Derby last month and set a wicked and suicidal early pace but faded to 12th. The result means that a different horse won each jewel of the 2013 Triple Crown, which in turn, completely scrambles the three year old male division. I’m going to have to start questioning this year’s crop of three year olds. I mean, obviously Orb is not the superstar we may have thought he was…at least not yet anyway. This years Preakness was the slowest run in the past 30 years and the Belmont’s final time (2:30.3) was the fourth slowest since 1990 Here is the replay again, watch the last 300 yards or so very carefully. There is not one horse running a step including the winnerPalace Malice. In fact, with about 100 or so yards to go Palace Malice, to me, looks completely spent, yet no-one could catch him and he wins by open lengths? The official order of finish 1) Palace Malice- has a change of tactics and rated off the very quick early pace. He took command at the quarter pole and, albeit clearly exhausted at the end, (he ran the final quarter in a very pedestrian like :27.3) he won convincingly. “The key to the win was blinkers off,” winning jockey Mike Smith said. “The Derby was a sneaky good race if you go back and look at it. This race, he was enjoying the whole trip. He was breathing it all in and he was so relaxed.” As Palace Malice was passing Oxbow, Smith said he heard Stevens yell over to him, “Go on with it, big boy. You’re going better than me.” “It’s huge,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the 2007 Belmont with the filly Rags to Riches. “We always felt he had a big win in him. He just needed to put it all together.” Palace Malice, who scored a 98 Beyer Speed Figure in the win, is probably headed for a summer campaign at Saratoga Race Course, but that is not a lock by any means according to Pletcher “Honestly, the way he’s feeling this (Sunday) morning, I don’t know that I am going to be able to give him much time off,” Pletcher said. “He’s just that kind of horse. He’s a high-energy, good-feeling horse. He’ll go back to the track four days from now. We’ll probably carry forward to the (July 27) Jim Dandy.” The Jim Dandy is the traditional prep for the $1 million Travers Aug. 24.   2) Oxbow- raced close to the very quick early pace and held very well for second (1 3/4 lengths over Orb). “I’m so proud of this colt,” Stevens said. “I thought I was dead midway down the backside. They were suicidal fractions and he never got any break.” “Midway around the turn, I said, ‘Well, maybe.’ But I have ridden long enough to know that he was going to walk home the last quarter of a mile,” Stevens added. “Going into the far turn, I didn’t think (Oxbow) would have hit the board. To finish second, I am really surprised. He galloped out after the race like you wouldn’t believe.” “I was really happy with his performance today,” trainer D Wayne Lukas said. “Anytime you could hook into a field with that much parity and that many good horses…he performed as well as we could have expected. I was happy for Todd, as he is obviously well-connected with us, and I’m happy for (owner) Cot Campbell as well.” Oxbow left BelmontPark early Sunday morning and was expected to arrive back at Lukas’ Churchill Downs barn by 6:30 p.m. EDT. “Everyone was tickled with his performance,” said Leigh Bentley, assistant to Lukas. “He ran super and seemed to come back great. Everyone was quite pleased.” Oxbox will probably be pointed for the Jim Dandy/Travers route as well, although nothing has been officially announced as of yet.   3) Orb- dropped back far off pace early, made a huge run while going wide on the turn for home but flattened out in deep stretch. Honestly, I saw no visible excuses for this horse…the race setup perfectly for him and he just didn’t get there. From where I sit, its one of three things….one, he isn’t as good as we though he was, two, he’s now had four races in essentially three months and he might be a little worn out or three, he simply peaked out in the Florida and Kentucky Derbies and his form has now tailed off Trainer Shug McGaughey offered no excuses for Orb either. “He just ran OK, He made a good run around the turn, but we had given up so much. The speed horses held all up front and we just couldn’t catch them.” “It has been fun,” McGaughey said of the Triple Crown experience. “I’ve got no problems with anything. Everything’s fine with me. I just wish we had showed a little better performances in the Preakness and the Belmont.” McGaughey added Orb was in good shape following his third-place finish in the Belmont, but was “a little tired” afterwards “I went down and looked at him a little later and he was kind of hanging his head,” he said. “He was tired. He’ll get a good month of rehab time and see where it takes us.”   “I understand the game well enough to know you can’t win them all,” McGaughey added. “He won five in a row, three graded stakes, two grade: 1’s —not bad” McGaughey said he was thinking of sending Orb to the Fair Hill training center (away from the racetrack environment) and freshen him before a return to training. “Hopefully, we can get him back on his feet,” McGaughey said. “I’d love to run in the Travers. My main objective, if he bounces out of this the way I hope, would be the Travers.”   4) Incognito- (at 18-1) was the only horse in the Belmont racing without Lasix and ran a very respectable fourth, beaten about six lengths. He raced forwardly for most of the way around and finished fairly well although he was absolutely no threat to the winner. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin reported that Incognito came out of the Belmont Stakes in good shape and will point toward the Saratoga meet for his next start. “He came out great; he’s happy,” McLaughlin said. “He ran well. I don’t know where we go, but obviously the Travers would be great to point for, with his pedigree. If he could ever win that, he’d be a nice stallion. We feel like he belongs with them, anyway.” 5) Revolutionary- had a similar trip to Orb as he was taken well back off the early pace, launched a huge move around the turn but he, too, flattened out in deep stretch. I was personally disappointed with his effort but it seems he may need a little time off as well. Trainer Todd Pletcher said he needed to “speak with (WinStar’s President) Elliott Walden about future plans for Revolutionary” but his instincts tell him that Revolutionary “might get a freshening.”   6) Unlimited Budget- was taken out of the race early from what I saw. Not only was she hung three wide on the first turn, but it appeared to be she was bumped hard as well. She remained three wide most of the way around and was left too much to do down the stretch. The big filly, who was ridden by Rosie Napravnik and was trying to become just the fourth filly in history to win the Belmont, will go back to racing against fillies with her next major goal being the Coaching Club American Oaks on July 20 at Saratoga.   7) Overanalyze- raced mid pack most of the way around and had nothing left when they turned for home. He was beaten a total of about 8 ½ lengths. Trainer Todd Pletcher said he was “not sure what we want to do” with Overanalyze. He added that the Jim Dandy and Travers were possible, as is the Haskell on July 28 at Monmouth, a race that is the target for Verrazano also.   8) Vyjack- was bumped slightly at the start and got hung like four or five wide on the first turn before being taken well back off the early pace. He made up a little bit of ground late but it wasn’t nearly enough and was beaten about 10 lenghts.Like Orb, this is clearly not the same horse we saw in the late winter and early spring. No immediate plans for Vyjack were released at this writing.   9) Golden Soul- was also disappointing. After that huge, yet surprising, second at 35-1 in the Kentucky Derby.  This horse broke well, settled into last around the first turn and down the back side. He began to pick up horses on the turn but was another who had nothing left in the stretch drive and was beaten about 11 lengths   10) Will Take Charge- never got closer than tenth position in the 14 horse field and was with stable mate Oxbow on the van ride back to Churchill Downs with trainer D. Wayne Lukas. No further plans have been announced at this writing.   11) Giant Finish was near the leaders early, but spit out the bit completely and was beaten some 35 ½ lengths.   12) Midnight Taboo – was in way over his head and was never in contention at 30-1.  Trainer Todd Pletcher said he would drop back to a first-level allowance next time.   13) Freedom Child- could possibly be the biggest disappointment of the afternoon, as he came into the race looking and training like a million bucks and off a complete annihilation of the Peter Pan field. Yet, after chasing the pace for the first 7 or 8 furlongs, he shifted it into reverse and just about stopped running completely in deep stretch   14) Frac Daddy- set the pace to the first half mile and also caved in late…as expected.   Now that the Triple Crown series is complete, exactly who is the top three year old male? Orb won the Kentucky and Florida Derbies, but was beaten fair and square in the Preakness and Belmont.  You can’t tell me Oxbow either. I mean he’s won two races all year (the Preakness and LeComte Stakes at the Fair Grounds, but that was back in January). Same can be said for Palace Malice…the Belmont was his first win all year long and just the second in his career. Let me just tell you, it’s a good thing we are just shy of being halfway thru the year. I’m not sure which way to lean. Hopefully, the Jim Dandy, The Travers and the Haskell (all coming up within the next several weeks) will help us figure this all out. If not, we’ll have one more chance towards the end of the year in the Breeders Cup. Thanks for reading. To receive an email each time a new Horse Racing article is published, fill out the Email Notification Form      
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