With four victories in four starts this year, Palace Malice hopes to continue making a statement in the second half of the season when he races Aug. 2 in the grade I Whitney Handicap at Saratoga Race Course.
And, if the 4-year-old Curlin colt continues his roll, his owners believe he has a shot at Horse of the Year honors for 2014.
"Right now I'd have to think he's a strong candidate for Horse of the Year," Dogwood Stable president Cot Campbell said July 29 during a national media teleconference hosted by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
So far this year Palace Malice has won the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I), New Orleans and Gulfstream Park handicaps (both gr. II), and the Westchester Handicap (gr. III). He got a short break after the June 7 Met Mile and has been pointing to the Whitney at 1 1/8 miles.
"I think we circled (the Whitney) early on in the year," Campbell said. "It's in Saratoga and we race up here, and it's logical (on the calendar). He's a good work horse. He's very sharp and actually a little edgy, a little feisty right now."
The field for the Whitney was to be drawn July 30.
"I think it's right in his wheelhouse," Campbell said of the Whitney. "His ideal distance is a mile and an eighth to a mile and a quarter. I think it's great for him."
Palace Malice, trained by Todd Pletcher, is two-for-three at Saratoga; he broke his maiden there in 2012 and last year won the grade II Jim Dandy Stakes. He did well to finish fourth, defeated only three-quarters of a length, after early trouble in the Travers Stakes (gr. I).
Depending on the outcome of the Whitney, other races on the calendar for Palace Malice are the Woodward Stakes, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Breeders' Cup Classic (all gr. I). Last year the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner finished second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and an even sixth in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but appears to be a different horse this year.
That has led to questions about a stud career. Campbell said about 10 farms have contacted him concerning Palace Malice, who has won from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/2 miles.
"I would say we are racing people, but we don't want to be stupid either," Campbell said. "Many farms have called, and I've said we'll wait until this fall (to assess his career). He could retire or go another year. We'll have to figure it out as we go along.
"It's a tough decision. We certainly don't want to leave money on the table, but I think the horse has achieved a level of value he will always have."