Long known as "the Stallion Maker," winners of the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile Handicap have been known to have great success at stud. Historically speaking, some very good stallions have won the race through the years. With such a storied past, it's no wonder the race consistently attracts quality fields, and this year was no exception. Despite the deep field, favoritism landed squarely on the withers of Palace Malice, and the reigning Belmont Stakes winner delivered in emphatic fashion.
Breaking from post 1, the Dogwood Stable runner was slow into stride. Despite the less than stellar beginning, Palace Malice quickly revved up his engine and established a solid foothold along the rail. A quartet of higher priced runners, Goldencents, Broadway Empire, Scarly Charly, and Romansh all went out for the lead, but long shot Broadway Empire earned the honors. Winging it on a "60-1 prayer" on the front end, the gelded son of Empire Make did all the early legwork. Throwing down honest fractions of 23.01/45.70/1:09.41, Broadway Empire dared the rest of the field to come and get him.
Goldencents was the first to take up the challenge, but Palace Malice lurked right behind him, patiently waiting for running room and the opportunity to pounce. Racing luck smiled on the colt, who got a nice opening down the lane. As he came off the rail, Broadway Empire drifted in and Goldencents drifted out, providing Palace Malice with an ample hole to burst through.
Taking full advantage of the hole provided by the two front-runners, Palace Malice charged on through to win by about a length in a final time of 1:33.56 for the mile long race. Goldencents was able to hang on for second as the 6-1 fourth betting choice, and Romansh got up for third at odds of 19-1. The order of finish was completed by Shakin It Up, Clearly Now, Broadway Empire, Scarly Charly, Declan's Warrior, Vyjack, Normandy Invasion, Capo Bastone, and Moreno.
As the 6-5 favorite, Palace Malice paid his backers $4.70/$3.70/$2.90. Runner-up Goldencents returned $5.80/$4.80, and a $2 show bet on Romansh was worth $7.90. The $2 exacta paid $29.60. The $0.50 trifecta returned $139.75, and the $0.10 $169.40
For jockey John Velazquez, it wasn't as smooth sailing a trip as it appeared. "When I finally got him through, he started running. He was [hesitant to go through]. The room was there, but I kind of have ti keep him busy, keep him busy. The spot was there, but he went to jump from one side to the other one and I almost lost my spot. I got after him again, and he finally got through. Once he got through, he started running. [Out of the gate], the first jump was OK and the second jump he kind of grabbed himself a little. He didn't really bobble, he just stumbled a little bit, just a jump. After that I had to make sure I got him in the race," he explained.
Todd Pletcher, the winning trainer, was extremely pleased with his charge's performance. "It's pretty extraordinary to have a horse win the Belmont a year ago and come back and win the Met Mile from the number 1 post carrying 124 pounds and beating last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner [Goldencents] in the process. It's an unbelievable accomplishment," he expounded.
Goldencents, in off a 6 month layoff, ran an "unbelievable" race for his connections. Doug O'Neill's assistant trainer Leandro Mora lamented the lack of a prep, stating, "We needed a little tuneup. This was his first race since he finished seventh in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap in November at Aqueduct. Too bad we couldn't have a race in between. We did all we could. We're extremely happy. We ran a great second, so we're fine. We're going for the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita."
Bred in Kentucky by W S Farish, Palace Malice is by Curlin and out of the Royal Anthem mare Palace Rumor. The colt visited the auction ring twice, going for $25,000 as a yearling and $200,000 as a two-year old. Dogwood Stable acquired him for that cool sum out of the Keeneland 2012 April Two-Year Olds in Training Sale. Now 16: 7-1-4 overall, Palace Malice remained perfect in 2014 and perfect at a mile with today's win. The $670,000 winner's share of the purse pushed his career earnings to $2,631,135. By virtue of today's win, Palace Malice also earned an automatic berth in the G1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on November 1 at Santa Anita.