“Big days ahead, I hope. We’ve had a couple of good ones.”
The words dripped off colorful Cot Campbell’s tongue like golden honey as the octogenarian savored another impressive win for the best horse his Dogwood Stable has had in many years. Validating his 3 ¼ length score in the Test of the Champion, Palace Malice stalked the early pace of Moreno, before wearing that challenger down through the lane and easily holding off the late running Will Take Charge to win the Grade 2 Jim Dandy by one in control length.
If his Belmont Stakes win was indeed, “the mother of all great moments,” then today’s Jim Dandy was a love child for the attractive son of champion, Curlin, and his happy connections.
Win one big one, and fans demand more. That’s exactly what Palace Malice gave them today. Long considered a horse with great promise and potential, Palace Malice is now more than living up to his lofty hopes and expectations.
Taking the race right to his competition early and often, Palace Malice always looked like a winner as he was ridden with confidence by Mike Smith. He had the only horse ahead of him early’s measure, and was never threatened by the horses who lagged behind him early. Sent off at 6-5 this time as opposed to the 13-1 odds he was let go at in the Belmont, Palace Malice won for the third time in nine lifetime starts, while becoming racing's newest million dollar earner.
A special mention needs to be given to the final time of 1:47.37 for the nine furlongs, making it the second fastest Jim Dandy ever, and less than a tenth of a second off the stakes record of Louis Quatorze.
A May foal, Palace Malice still has room for improvement, and it is happening fast. Keep in mind that before the Belmont, railbirds, including his trainer, Todd Pletcher, noted that he was flourishing in his morning works. That trend has continued upstate. It now looks that like the colt who was loaded down with excuses in five consecutive losses, has turned the corner, and is now ready to assume the role of a leader of his generation. Perhaps now the only thing that stands between him and an end of the year championship is a third straight New York win in the Travers.
While the Jim Dandy was another big step for the winner, it proved disappointing for many Mid-Summer Derby hopefuls, most notably second choice, Mylute, who never got into the race and finished eighth. For the inconsistent Rebel winner, Will Take Charge, today’s second place finish was his best since that win in March and showed that he has bounced back from running in all three legs of the Triple Crown well. Moreno, meanwhile, was the only other horse to run well as he was hounded by Palace Malice all the way around, and while he never looked like a winner, he fought on well to run his third straight strong race since coming East for trainer Eric Guillot.
With rivals like Kentucky Derby winner, Orb, and Preakness winner, Oxbow, on Palace Malice’s horizon, the Travers is setting up to the be the race of the year for the three-year-old males. The Belmont win was a validation of his potential, but the Jim Dandy was proof positive that Palace Malice has come of age. In four weeks, he will look to take a stranglehold of the division over the same track in which he excelled this afternoon. Lookout Orb and Oxbow, Palace Malice has arrived.