When the main track opened Sunday morning following the renovation break at 8:50 a.m., 3-year-old stars Palace Malice and Verrazano
were the first horses bounding through the gap, eager to put in their
penultimate works for the Grade 1, $1 million Travers Stakes on August
With exercise rider Jake Nelson aboard, Palace Malice breezed four furlongs in 49.02 seconds, the 16th
fastest of 67 works at the distance. Verrazano, with Hall of Fame rider
John Velazquez up, worked the same distance in 49.05, in company with
Secretariat Stakes-bound turf runner Jack Milton.
thought we had a very good morning; everything went just as we had
hoped," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "We've certainly never come into the
Travers with two horses with credentials this strong and doing as well
as these two horses are. We'll just cross our fingers for 13 more days
and hope everything continues to go as well as it is."
Malice is seeking to become the only horse besides Arts and Letters in
1969 to win the Belmont Stakes, the Jim Dandy and the Travers. Arts and
Letters was named Horse of the Year that year. To accomplish the feat,
Palace Malice will have to defeat his stablemate, Verrazano, who is
coming off a scintillating 9 ¾-length victory in the Grade 1 Haskell
Invitational on July 28 at Monmouth Park.
Pletcher recognizes putting the two together is not ideal, but both are in contention for end of the year honors.
hate to run two horses like this against each other, but it's the right
thing for each horse and each owner, so that's what we're going to do,"
Pletcher said. "Both horses are certainly in position where a win here
would solidify their status at the top of the division. What better
place to decide it than on the racetrack in the Travers?"
Pletcher also worked Princess of Sylmar,
the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks
winner, who is seeking to add the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama to her
resume on Saturday.
Princess of Sylmar breezed four furlongs in 49.50 seconds, 49th fastest of 100 works at the distance.
daughter of Majestic Warrior won the Kentucky Oaks at odds of 38-1 and
was less highly thought of than her stablemates Dreaming of Julia and
Unlimited Budget, who she vanquished that day.
Pletcher believes any doubts about her talent have been eliminated.
think it changed in the [Coaching Club American] Oaks [on July 20 at
the Spa]," Pletcher said. "She put any questions about her Kentucky Oaks
victory to rest in there with a very strong performance. She's trained
brilliantly since then. We hope she can repeat that type of effort in
the Alabama. For a filly that has only lost one time since her debut,
and coming off a win in the Kentucky Oaks and the Coaching Club, she's
established herself as the division leader."