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Belmont winner Palace Malice proves to be no stooge

Palace Malice left ridden by jockey Mike Smith crosses finish line w145th Belmont Stakes horse race Belmont Park Saturday June

Palace Malice, left, ridden by jockey Mike Smith, crosses the finish line to win the 145th Belmont Stakes horse race at Belmont Park Saturday, June 8, 2013, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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Updated: July 10, 2013 6:57AM



NEW YORK — Palace Malice took charge on the turn for home and won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, holding off Preakness winner Oxbow and Kentucky Derby winner Orb.

The victory gave Todd Pletcher his second Belmont score in six years, and vindicated the trainer’s support of a 3-year-old who came into the final leg of the Triple Crown with one victory.

Palace Malice, who finished 12th in the Derby and skipped the Preakness, covered the 1½ miles in a slow 2:30.70 on a fast track following a 24-hour downpour. The colt owned by Cot Campbell’s Dogwood Stable won by 3¼ lengths after passing pacesetter Oxbow. Orb made a late move but came up far short and finished third.

Palace Malice, ridden by Mike Smith was sent off at odds of 13-1 as one of a record five entries by Pletcher.

Incognito was fourth, followed by Revolutionary, the filly Unlimited Budget, Overanalyze, Vyjack, Golden Soul, Will Take Charge, Giant Finish, Midnight Taboo, Freedom Child and Frac Daddy.

When Palace Malice moved past Oxbow, Smith said fellow Hall of Famer Gary Stevens looked over at him “like a big brother telling his little brother. ‘You go on with it big boy, you’re moving better than me.’ ”

Last Sunday, Palace Malice put in his final workout before the Belmont, blazing 4 furlongs in 47.40 seconds. Pletcher called it one of the most impressive works he’d ever seen. And Palace Malice came through in a big way, earning $600,000 of the $1 million purse and giving Pletcher his third victory in a Triple Crown race.

The nation’s leading trainer also won the 2007 Belmont with the filly Rags to Riches and the 2010 Derby with Super Saver. Smith won his second Belmont, having won aboard Drosselmeyer in 2010.

Pletcher’s other four Belmont runners were Revolutionary, Unlimited Budget, Overanalyze and Midnight Taboo.

The 14-horse field — the largest since 1996 — got off to an even start on a warm, sunny day.

Frac Daddy and Freedom Child set out for the lead from their inside posts, with Oxbow not far behind. As the field came out of the turn, Stevens put Oxbow on the lead into the long backstretch run. But unlike the Preakness, he had company up front. By the time the Oxbow moved into the far turn, Palace Malice had moved into contention and Orb began to make a run from way back in the pack.

With a quarter-mile to the finish, Palace Malice seized the lead. The question was whether anyone was going to catch him. Unlike the Derby, Orb was unable to come through with a winning kick. He couldn’t even reel in the tiring Oxbow.

“It’s huge. It’s huge,” said Pletcher, who twice before sent out five horses in the Kentucky Derby and came up empty. “We always felt like he had a big one in him. We were just waiting for it to finally develop. I told Mr. Campbell this horse is training unbelievable. I know he’s got a big run, we just need to put it all together.”

Trainer Shug McGaughey said Orb made a good run around the turn, “but we had given up so much ground. The speed horses held all up front and we couldn’t catch them.”

Stevens was happy Oxbow hung on for second.

“Going into the far turn, I didn’t think he would have hit the board,” Stevens said. “To finish second, I am really surprised. I’m really proud of him.”

AP



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