Palace Malice may have been the narrow second choice in the six-horse New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) March 29, but he proved best when drawing well clear of 11-10 favorite Normandy Invasion down the long Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots stretch (VIDEO).
Mike Smith was aboard Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice, who covered the nine furlongs in 1:48.93. Palace Malice carried high weight of 121 pounds in the $388,000 race, six more than Normandy Invasion. He dusted his rival by 4 3/4 lengths at odds of 6-5.
Breaking from the outside post, Palace Malice was in a clear stalking position as Bradester set the early pace, getting the opening quarter in :23.65 and half-mile in :47.85. Tracking was 23-1 shot Fordubai on the rail.
Palace Malice made first move on the leader as the field rounded the far turn as six furlongs went in 1:11.91, getting to the front easily while floating a rallying Normandy Invasion wide into the stretch. Palace Malice opened up a two-length lead after a mile in 1:36.31 and cruised a final eight in :12.62 for the easy win. It was 6 3/4 lengths back to Louisiana-bred Sunbean in third. He was followed by Fordubai, Golden Soul, and Bradester.
"This horse holds a special place in my heart," said Smith. "I am just so happy that it worked out that I got to reunite with him and he didn't let us down. He might be better than he was last year. He did that pretty handily today."
Prayer For Relief (6-1 on the morning line) and Mister Marti Gras (12-1) were scratched.
Making his second start of the year—he kicked off his 4-year-old campaign with a score in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II)—Palace Malice has now has a 5-4-1 slate from 14 starts and has earned $1,871,135. Last year Palace Malice won the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) following a pair of starts at Fair Grounds in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II).
Cot Campbell, founder and president of Dogwood Stable, led his star to the winner's circle in New Orleans. Palace Malice is trained by Todd Pletcher, who later in the day won the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) with Constitution.
The winner paid $4.40, $2.40, and $2.10. Normandy Invasion paid $2.20 and $2.10. Sunbean paid $2.80. The $2 exacta (8-5) paid $8.20 and $1 trifecta (8-5-6) returned $14.90.
Fox Hill Farms' Normandy Invasion was also making his second start of the year and second start since finishing fourth in last year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The son of Tapit won an allowance/optional claiming race Feb. 22 at Gulfstream Park.
Bred in Kentucky by William S. Farish, Palace Malice is a son of Curlin out of the Royal Anthem mare Palace Rumor. A $25,000 Keeneland September yearling sale buy in 2011 by Colin Brennan from the Lane's End, agent, consignment, Dogwood purchased Palace Malice for $200,000 out of the following year's Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds from Niall Brennan Stables, agent.