Classic winner Palace Malice will try to keep his fast start to the 2014 season going when he faces an accomplished field as the highweight in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) March 29 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Last year's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner enters Fair Grounds' showcase main-track race for handicap horses off a narrow victory in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) March 8 at Gulfstream Park.
Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice will have his work cut out for him while packing 121 pounds on Saturday, spotting each of his seven rivals from two to nine pounds. In addition, he will break from the outside in the field of eight. But the 4-year-old son of Curlin figures to improve in his second start of the year as he stretches out to two turns again after taking the one-turn mile Gulfstream Park Handicap by a nose over Golden Ticket .
That victory ended a three-race losing streak that closed out 2013 for Palace Malice. He e continued to race well during that stretch, however, registering a runner-up showing against older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) at Belmont Park, and finishing a close fourth in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course.
Palace Malice will not be the only New Orleans Handicap starter entering off a strong 4-year-old season debut at Gulfstream as Normandy Invasion also is set for the Fair Grounds test. In his first start since finishing fourth in the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Normandy Invasion overwhelmed an allowance field Feb. 22 at Gulfstream, posting a 7 3/4-length score.
In the six dirt races at Gulfstream Feb. 22, Fox Hill Farms' Normandy Invasion was the only winner who did not have the lead at the first call as he rallied from fourth against five rivals to complete the one-turn mile in a track-record time of 1:33.13. Trainer Chad Brown rested Normandy Invasion last year to allow the son of Tapit to heal from a deep abscess in a front foot during the summer.
Other accomplished horses entered in Saturday's race include last year's Derby runner-up Golden Soul, a homebred for Charles Fipke; Joseph Sutton's Bradester, who won the Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) Feb. 22 at Fair Grounds; and grade III winner Prayer for Relief, who will make his first start for Dale Romans after being moved from trainer Steve Asmussen by owner Ahmed Zayat.
$400,000 New Orleans Handicap (gr. II, race 10, approximate post time 5:25 p.m. CDT) 3YO & Up, 1 1/8 miles
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Bradester (KY), J. Graham, 117, E. Kenneally
2. Mister Marti Gras (KY), F. Feroux, 114, N. Pessin
3. Golden Soul (KY), B. Hernandez, 112, D. Stewart
4. Prayer for Relief (KY), S. Bridgmohan, 119, D. Romans
5. Normandy Invasion (KY), R. Napravnik, 115, C. Brown
6. Sunbean (LA), R. Eramia, 116, R. Faucheux
7. Fordubai (KY), R. Albarado, 115, G. Geier
8. Palace Malice (KY), M. Smith, 121, T. Pletcher