Dogwood Stables' Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Palace Malice proved his class July 27 at Saratoga Race Course, powering to victory in the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) by a length over Will Take Charge (VIDEO) .
The sophomore son of Curlin was favored at 6-5 and impressive in his first start for trainer Todd Pletcher off his 3 1/4-length Belmont upset at odds of 13-1, returning to the home of his maiden score to run 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.37 on the fast main track. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith was in the irons.
"He was so professional; the time was good, it unfolded like we hoped it would," Dogwood's Cot Campbell remarked. "When he pounced, he pounced. He got the job done. He finished up well and I think it augers well for the Travers. But Travers or not, this is a great race to win and a great town to win it in. God almighty, I'm so pleased."
Smith kept Palace Malice close to the outside flank of Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) winner Moreno, who headed straight to the lead while running a quarter in :24.06, a half in :47.48, and three quarters in 1:11.13. The Belmont winner loomed large coming off the turn but hung a little when he reached even terms with Moreno.
Roused to business by his rider through a mile in 1:34.94, Palace Malice responded with another gear just outside the sixteenth pole and, having put away his pacesetting rival, drew off to his second graded stakes score.
"It set up really well, but Todd and his connections had him really ready," Smith said. "He was better than last time. Those are kind of big words to say after winning the Belmont, but he truly was, and with room to grow. The last sixteenth of a mile he was well within himself. He was searching for more ground, if i needed it. I think he'll get every inch of a mile and a quarter; I really do.
"He was really good early. He jumped on (the bit) a little bit coming off the backstretch. I talked him out of it, and he was great. He's still learning."
"We had a beautiful trip," Pletcher said. "He got into a good comfortable rhythm down the backside. He relaxed nicely and finished up pretty well in a very, very good time. We got the race over the track. The horse keeps getting better and better and today was arguably his best performance yet. Hopefully, on to the Travers."
Will Take Charge closed gamely for the place by 2 1/4 lengths, while Moreno held on to show. Completing the order of finish were Bashaar, Code West, Looking Cool , Perfect Title, Mylute, and Freedom Child. Vyjack scratched to run in the July 28 William Hill Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth Park.
The victory was worth $360,000 to the winning connections and $4.70, $3.40 and $2.70 to Palace Malice's betting supporters. Will Take Charge paid $11.80 and $6.10, and Moreno returned $4.30 to show.
The dark bay or brown colt was bred in Kentucky by W.S. Farish out of the Royal Anthem mare Palace Rumor, and was a $25,000 pinhook from the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale when purchased by Colin Brennan from Lane's End, agent.
D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of runner-up Will Take Charge, said he's done his best work with longshots. Will Take Charge was 17-1 off a 10th-place finish in the Belmont for Calumet Farm.
"About the time they write us off, here we come again," Lukas said. "I try to put my clients in that arena and that spotlight if I can. So we concentrate on that. I thought he'd run big. At the top of the stretch I thought we had a shot at it because they were developing a little heat up front.
"He's a little bit light, and he's just getting his growth; the next 30 days should make a difference. I can see him being very effective in the Travers; I think he'll even get better late in the fall."
It appears as though at least the top three finishers from the Jim Dandy will head to the Travers Stakes, to be run at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 24. Eric Guillot, trainer of Moreno, said his runner's effort merited a shot.
"He ran good," Guillot said. "I just wanted him to run good enough to prove he belongs and come back for the Travers. We beat the rest of the field convincingly. He got beat by a good horse; he got beat by the Belmont winner. If I don't get pressured, the second-place horse doesn't beat me."