Palace Malice takes Belmont Stakes
Palace Malice seized the lead at the top of the stretch and won the $1 million, 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes to become the third winner in three Triple Crown races this year.
Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Mike Smith, Palace Malice ensured that neither Kentucky Derby-winner Orb nor Preakness champion Oxbow would end the year with two-thirds of US flat racing's coveted treble.
Oxbow, ridden by Gary Stevens and trained by D. Wayne Lukas, finished second while Orb, whose late rally under jockey Joel Rosario wasn't enough, was third.
The triumph in the 145th running of the Belmont was Smith's second in the race traditionally dubbed the Test of the Champion. He piloted Drosselmeyer to victory in 2010.
It was especially sweet after the veteran jockey's 2012 season of Triple Crown frustration, when he finished second in all three races.
Palace Malice went off at odds of 13-1, but Smith said the longer distance compared to the other Triple Crown events and sweeping turns of the Belmont Park track gave Palace Malice a chance to shine, as he failed to do when he faded to 12th after setting the early pace in the Kentucky Derby.
More comfortable without the blinkers he wore at Churchill Downs, Palace Malice was in his element throughout, Smith said.
"Today, the whole time he's just enjoying the trip and sucking all the air in," said Smith, adding that his mount had no problem with the distance.
"The whole key was getting him into that rhythm he was in," Smith said. "He's bred to run all day."
Frac Daddy and Freedom Child set the early pace, with Oxbow not far off despite what Stevens called "suicidal fractions".
Stevens took Oxbow to the front on the backstretch, but by the time they moved into the far turn Palace Malice was challenging and Orb was beginning a run from far back in the 14-horse field.
Heading into the final straight, Palace Malice took the lead from Oxbow and powered to a 3 1/4-length triumph.
"It's huge. It's huge," Pletcher said. "We always felt like he had a big one in him. We were just waiting for it to finally develop."
Stevens was delighted that Oxbow held on for second, calling him "one of the bravest horses I’ve ever ridden."
McGauhey said Orb, who went off as the 2-1 favorite, just had too much to do at the end.
"He made a good run around the turn, but we had given up so much," he said. "The speed horses held on up front, and we just couldn’t catch them."
Eleven horses have completed the Triple Crown sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, but the last was Affirmed in 1978.