For the second time in three years the Triple Crown was split evenly between three horses. Yesterday, at Belmont Park Dogwood Stables Palace Malice passed the Test of Champions in convincing fashion. Long considered a horse with great promise and potential, the good looking son of Curlin won for only the second time in his career. Winning a Triple Crown race by open lengths, while still eligible for a non-winners-of-one-other-than, is not how most horses do it, but on the other hand, his 3 1/4 length score in the Belmont Stakes came as no big surprise to many supporters who believed in the horse since his debut at Belmont Park last summer.
In defeating the Preakness winner Oxbow and the Derby winner Orb Palace Malice thrust himself into a leading role in America's glamour division. The decisive win leaves the three year old male division perhaps even more muddied than it was before the Kentucky Derby. While Orb was riding a major winning streak, highlighted by a strong win at Churchill Downs, his fourth place finish in the Preakness and his third place finish in the Belmont, brings him back down to a level of the rest.
Oxbow, meanwhile, rebounded from a sixth place finish in Kentucky with a strong front running victory at Pimlico, and then a admirable and gutsy second place Belmont performance. The well traveled speedster has certainly proven his mettle in his last two efforts, but with a record of only two-for-seven this year it's hard to call him definitively the best of the crop.
Despite not having won a race yet before yesterday, Palace Malice might be developing into a potential horse to beat in the division. Before the Belmont, he was a horse who strung together a series of excuses but yesterday the excuses ended as he put it all together in a big way. With three nearly equal leaders of the three-year-old male division, things are aligning for an interesting summer for the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont winner, as well as, several other sophomores who still might have a say before a championship is decided.
Also on the Belmont Stakes card, my winter-book favorite for the 2013 Kentucky Derby, Power Broker finally looked like the type of horse that I expected him to become this year. The Gary and Mary West owned and Bob Baffert trained son of Pulpit fought off a handful of early challengers and drew off down the lane to win the 1 1/16th mile Easy Goer stakes like a colt ready to move on to bigger and better things. Considering Bob Baffert's record in the Haskell, Power Broker should be considered a major contender for the million dollar race coming up next month at Monmouth Park. If Power Broker is to become another of Baffert's Jersey Shore heroes, he likely will need to beat another pair of talented colts already pointing for the Haskell. After a disappointing fading place finish in Louisville, it's easy to forget that two time graded stakes winner Verrazano still only has one career loss. Prepping for the Haskell in next week's Pegasus stakes, look for the Pletcher runner to rebound in smart fashion. A win in the Pegasus should get him right back on track for a solid shot at Monmouth's signature race. One horse already stabled at Monmouth Park who we can't forget about is the Preakness runner-up Itsmyluckyday. Draw a line through his Derby and the Lawyer Ron colt has done nothing wrong in 2013. With home field advantage, it would be no surprise for Itsmyluckyday to gain his first grade one victory in the Haskell. Several hours north of Monmouth, the Spa's own Chad Brown has been dreaming of a Travers win since the field crossed the wire in the Derby. With only three races this year and zero wins, Normandy Invasion, much like Palace Malice before the Belmont is a horse of unfulfilled potential, but the brief leader of the Derby is probably one of the most talented horses in the division. As a Saratoga guy, there may be no race that Brown would rather win, and in the lightly raced son of Tapit, he may have the colt to do it. Taking the Preakness and Belmont off may give him an edge when the horses who battled it through the entire Triple Crown meet him again in a few months. Will one of these seven horses eventually take the division by a strangle hold, or will the three year old males continue to play musical chairs for king of the hill. I could see any one of the seven winning either the Haskell or the Travers, but then again, there's nothing wrong with Mylute either.