Palace , formerly a $20,000 claimer, collected a victory in the $250,000 True North Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park June 6 and did so in a solid 1:08.29, closing into a quick pace in the six-furlong sprint before putting away 2-1 favorite Bakken by three-quarters of a length (VIDEO).
It was the first grade II victory for the 5-year-old New York-bred son of City Zip, who had not been to the post for trainer Linda Rice since a fourth in the Feb. 17 General George Handicap (gr. II) at Laurel Park. He counted back to last November for his most recent win for owner Antonio Miuccio, a score in the Fall Highweight Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack that capped a three-race win streak. On Friday, Rice had him ready to roll first time off the bench.
"He was a little off form in the winter after (a runner-up finish in) the (Dec. 21) Gravesend, and frankly, he just didn't care for the inner track so I took him to Maryland for the General George," Rice said of her 9-1 shot. "He bled through the Lasix and ran really a subpar effort for him, so I turned him out for 60 days, and he came back great."
The speed in the True North was another Rice trainee, Affirmed Success Stakes winner Marriedtothemusic, who broke like a shot and gunned to the front for an opening quarter in :22.13 and a half in :44.44. Palace, who bobbled slightly shortly the start from post 7 under jockey Jose Ortiz, rated just behind 4-year-old Bakken, who pressed along in second on the outside.
"He was barely fit enough to run, but he trained very well coming into the race," Rice said. "The race looked like it had a lot of speed and it set up well for him, and he really likes Belmont."
Ortiz sat chilly as horses rushed up on his outside, then angled Palace off the rail for running room coming off the turn. They hooked up with Bakken, the 2-1 favorite making his first start for Chad Brown since a fifth in the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park last December, and Palace took over as five-eighths went in :56.10.
"I knew there was a lot of pace in the race, and I knew he had a chance to win because he can close, and that's what happened," Ortiz said. "He broke very sharp and was in perfect position. When I asked him to go, he went. A good horse, a lot of class. Linda did a tremendous job with him."
The winner returned $20.60, $8.50, and $4.80 while Bakken paid $4 and $3.10 and Salutos Amigos brought $3.50. Eastwood, Marriedtothemusic, Dads Caps, and Integrity completed the order of finish. Royal Currier and Well Spelled were scratched.
Javier Castellano, in the irons on Bakken, said, "I had a beautiful trip; I was just second best today. We hooked up with the winner at the top of the stretch, and he just showed a little more today."
Bred by the Peter J. Callahan Revocable Trust out of the End Sweep mare Receivership, Palace was a $160,000 purchase by Doug Cauthen from the 2011 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s 2011 selected sale of 2-year-olds in training in March, when consigned by Crupi's New Castle Farm, agent.
He raced four times for WinStar Farm and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott before he was claimed by Rice upon his fourth start, a maiden race at Belmont in October 2012.
The True North victory improved his record to 9-4-2 from 18 starts for earnings of $833,200. Among his other victories are the 2013 Chowder's First Stakes over grade I winner The Lumber Guy, and the restricted Hudson Handicap at Belmont last October.