Palace Malice proved his class in the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park, winning the second grade I of his career for Dogwood Stables a year after taking the 2013 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO).
Fourth with three furlongs left to go, the 6-5 favorite in a 12-horse field shifted off the rail and split rivals to run down tiring pacesetter Broadway Empire, then put away 2013 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) winner Goldencents while driving clear by a length. Romansh came in a half-length back in third.
"It's pretty extraordinary to have a horse win the Belmont a year ago and come back and win the Met Mile from the number one post carrying 124 pounds and beating last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner," trainer Todd Pletcher remarked. "In the process, it's an unbelievable accomplishment."
Rounding the turn Palace Malice shifted gears and found running room between horses, easily clearing the tiring Broadway Empire on his inside before digging deep to pass Goldencents to his outside within the furlong grounds. The 4-year-old son of Curlin ran the mile in 1:33.56.
"When I finally got him through, he started running," Velazquez said. "He was (hesitant to go through). The room was there, but I kind of have to keep him busy. The spot was there, but he went to jump from one side to the other one and I almost lost my spot. I got after him again, and he finally got through. Once he got through, he started running. (Out of the gate), the first jump was OK and the second jump he kind of grabbed himself a little. He didn't really bobble, he just stumbled a little bit, just a jump. After that I had to make sure I got him in the race."
Goldencents' connections said they were also pleased with their colt, who had not raced since finishing seventh in the Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct Racetrack last November.
"We needed a little tuneup," said Leandro Mora, assistant to trainer Doug O'Neill. "This was his first race since he finished seventh in the Cigar. Too bad we couldn't have a race in between. We did all we could. We're extremely happy. We ran a great second, so we're fine. We're going for the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita."
Shakin It up was pulled up past the wire by jockey Rosie Napravnik and vanned off the track. Dr. Larry Bramlage, a member of the AAEP On Call program, said Shakin It Up displayed "no instabilities or external swelling," but that he was lame in the left front and would be X-rayed and examined back at the barn for trainer Bob Baffert.
"He pulled up past the wire," Bramlage said. "The jockey felt him to be uneven and he was lame in the left front. Dr. Verderosa (New York Racing Association chief examining veterinarian) examined him. They didn't splint him or anything. He has no instability or external swelling. They just gave him a ride home in the ambulance to further examine him to be sure there wasn't anything wrong. He wasn't perfect when he pulled up."