Kentucky Derby winner and 2-1 favorite Orb finished third in the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion” at Belmont Park on Saturday.
Under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Palace Malice ran in fourth in the beginning, just off Freedom Child, Oxbow and leader Frac Daddy. Palace Malice continued to run easily as Oxbow took command and led the field of 14 3-year-olds through three quarters.
With Frac Daddy having already folded, the swift pace began to take its toll on Freedom Child. As they headed into the far turn Palace Malice drew alongside Oxbow and stuck a nose in front approaching the quarter pole.
Ahead by two lengths turning for home, Palace Malice was never threatened even as Oxbow stubbornly refused to give up.
“I kept saying I know there’s a big [race] there,” said Pletcher. “I felt like [Palace Malice] had a big one in him.”
Palace Malice, sent off at 13-1, returned $29.60 for a $2 win bet, and earned $600,000 for Dogwood Stable. It was the second Belmont victory for both Smith and Pletcher, with Smith having won in 2010 with Drosselmeyer and Pletcher having taken the 2007 edition with the filly Rags to Riches.
D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of Oxbow, said he was pleased with the Preakness winner’s effort.
“I was really happy with his performance today,” said Lukas, who was trying for a fifth Belmont win. “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.”
Fellow Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey offered no excuses for Orb’s loss.
“He just ran okay,” he said. “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.”