Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Derby Hopeful: Palace Malice

Derby Hopefuls feature the horses I view as the best contenders leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Each horse spotlighted in a Derby Hopeful will join the 2013 PTG Derby Hopeful roster, found on the right side of the blog. Horses will be listed in an order that corresponds to how highly I think of them, with the horse I think most highly of ranking at the top. A horse featured in a Derby Hopeful may be taken off the roster if its performances after its article are published are not up to par or if that horse is taken off the Triple Crown trail, though those articles will remain on my blog.

Last-minute changes in plans can leave a huge impact on life. Their effect is being felt along the 2013 Kentucky Derby trail, as at least two Derby contenders – Vyjack and Palace Malice – would never had existed if it weren’t for such changes. Whereas Vyjack is sired by a horse that his dam wasn’t intended to be bred to – meaning, had things gone as originally planned, he would not have existed –, Palace Malice’s dam escaped death – or at the very least, severe injury – due a quick change of schedule.

The dam of Palace Malice, Palace Rumor, was trained by small-time trainer Burl McBride, who sent the daughter of Royal Anthem to Hal Wiggins’ barn at Churchill Downs for a start beneath the twin spires while the remainder of his small stable remained at Ellis Park. Although he planned to send Palace Rumor – two years old at the time – back to Ellis Park after her race, he decided to keep her overnight at Churchill following a taxing effort.

Early the next morning, a tornado ripped through Ellis Park, killing three of the seven horses McBride had stabled there. Palace Rumor – who, by the intervention of fate, had remained safe at Churchill Downs – was the only horse he had left. She would go on to be a black-type winner, accumulating career earnings of $271,135 before being sold for $140,000 to William S. Farish of Lane’s End Farm at the 2008 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale while in foal to Tiznow.

One year later, Palace Rumor was bred to Curlin. The result was Palace Malice, who McBride attempted to purchase but was never able to, although he has eagerly followed the colt, owned by Cot Campbell’s Dogwood Stable.

Second in his debut behind the later graded stakes-placed Carried Interest, Palace Malice was shipped to Saratoga for his second attempt at breaking his maiden. After being anxious while loading into the gate, the bay colt broke sharply, finding a position just off the pacesetters. Tracking the leaders throughout, Palace Malice raced wide while sitting just off the brisk pace of the six and one-half-furlong maiden special weight. In authoritative fashion, Palace Malice took the lead around the far turn prior to storming to a 3 ½-length victory. Among the horses finishing behind him was Hightail, eventual winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint.

Palace Malice’s first start as a three-year-old resulted in a runner-up effort in a seven-furlong allowance optional claiming event at Gulfstream Park. This set him up for a run in the Risen Star Stakes (GII) at the Fair Grounds, his first try around two turns. After a clean break, the Todd Pletcher trainee settled near the rear of the main group of horses. Finding a gap between horses as the field entered the far turn, Palace Malice surged forward, gaining ground on the leaders. Guided to the outside to maneuver traffic, Palace Malice ran greenly, veering in and out, but managed to finish third, beaten less than ¾ of a length.

Disappointment embodied the colt’s next start, the Louisiana Derby (GII). Receiving a ground-saving trip, Palace Malice made a stunning rally down the backstretch, coasting closer to the leaders to prepare himself for a run in the final portion of the contest. Having upgraded from eighth to fourth, Palace Malice was forced to check on the far turn when he became boxed in, thus allowing an abundance of horses to pass him as his remarkable rally came to a forced halt. Although his rider searched for room down the homestretch, he had no luck. Once he finally found room in the late stages of the race, Palace Malice’s momentum had been ruined and he could finish no better than seventh.

But the colt’s fortune improved next out in the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) at Keeneland. Contesting over a synthetic surface for the first time in his career, the son of Curlin broke inwardly but galloped away well, taking a position near the rail behind the pacesetters. Appearing comfortable as he settled approximately five lengths off the leader as the field reached the backstretch, Palace Malice again received a ground-saving trip along the rail, growing closer to the leaders down the backstretch to assume the third spot.

The favorite, Rydilluc, led the field by 3 ½ lengths as the fourteen horses turned for home, but Palace Malice accelerated, being angled to the outside to attempt to gear down on him. Reaching Rydilluc outside the eighth pole, Palace Malice incorrectly changed leads at the sixteenth pole – either a sign of fatigue or greenness, the latter of which is a trait he has been known to exhibit – but took the lead, only to be passed by Java’s War in the very final strides as he switched back to the correct lead. Palace Malice was second by just a neck.

Palace Malice (green & yellow silks) coming down the homestretch of the Blue Grass
Photo by Brittlan Wall

Although Palace Malice appeared to be getting tired in the final stages of the Blue Grass, each race has been a learning experience for the colt and this race was only adding to his foundation. Moreover, he is bred through and through for classic distances.

His sire, all-time leading money earner Curlin, was an excellent distance horse, finishing in-the-money in all three of the competitive 2007 Triple Crown races: he was third in the Derby, first in the mile and three-sixteenths Preakness Stakes (GI), and second in the mile and one-half Belmont Stakes (GI). The two-time Horse of the Year was victorious at ten furlongs on five occasions and came within a head of winning at twelve furlongs. Considering Palace Malice is a member of his first crop, there is not much to measure Curlin’s success as a sire just yet. However, in addition to Palace Malice, he has also produced Zimniy Dvorets – a group stakes winner in Russia, the black-type-winning Countess, and the graded stakes-placed runners Blue Violet and Liberated.

Curlin’s sire, Smart Strike, is among the best sires on the continent, having been North America’s leading sire in 2007 and 2008 and a consistent top-five sire. Smart Strike is the sire of numerous distance horses, including champion English Channel – victorious in five grade ones at eleven furlongs or longer; champion Lookin’ At Lucky – winner of the 2010 Preakness; Kazakhstan champion Nodouble Destiny – a group one winner at 2,400 meters (almost 12 furlongs); Fleetstreet Dancer – victor of the Japan Cup Dirt (GI) when it was contested at 2,100 meters (approximately 10.4 furlongs); Tenpins – winner of the mile and three-sixteenths Washington Park Handicap (GII) and runner-up in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (GII) at ten furlongs; Strike a Deal – a graded stakes winner at eleven furlongs; and Smart Bid – a stakes winner at twelve furlongs.

An important stamina influence in Palace Malice’s pedigree is Curlin’s broodmare sire, Deputy Minister. A horse who has appeared in the first three generations of the likes of successful routers such as Paynter and Rags to Riches, the Canadian Hall of Famer was a tremendous broodmare sire, producing the dams of many talented distance horses, including the multiple group one-winning Kane Hekili and Sarava, winner of the 2002 Belmont.

Palace Rumor, who won up to a mile and one-sixteenth, is a daughter of Royal Anthem, a multiple group one winner who won up to twelve furlongs. A son of outstanding distance horse Theatrical, Royal Anthem sired several brilliant routers, including Divine Fortune – a multiple graded stakes-winning steeplechaser that has won up to two and one-half miles – and Presious Passion – a multiple grade one winner known for his speedy turf races that won at a mile and one-half on three occasions.

Palace Malice’s granddam, Whisperifyoudare, is a daughter of Red Ransom, who sired a wealth of distance horses, including Ekraar, Electrocutionist, Perfect Sting, and Roc de Cambes. But Whisperifyoudare was a successful broodmare of sprinters, including the multiple black-type-winning horses Jumpifyoudare and Maya’s Storm. However, her dam, Stellar Affair, was a stakes winner at nine furlongs and is a daughter of Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI, 10F) winner Skywalker. Stellar Affair is also the dam of Sweet Trip, the dam of Rail Trip, a grade one winner at ten furlongs.

The fourth dam of Palace Malice – Fawn and Hahn, who gave Eddie Delahoussaye his 4,000th career victory – is a daughter of Grey Dawn II, the only horse to ever defeat the great Sea Bird. Although the French champion was primarily a successful sprinter/miler, the son of the great distance horse Herbager produced a fair share of routers, including Bounding Basque, Christmas Past, and Vigors. A leading broodmare sire, Grey Dawn II sired the dams of many talented distance horses, such as Itsallgreektome, Silver Patriarch, and Waquoit. Fawn and Hahn is out of the group stakes-placed Ecstatica, who is out of a productive mare and is sired by the great Damascus, third-place finisher in the Derby who went on to win the Preakness and Belmont.

Palace Malice's pedigree
From pedigreequery.com

Palace Malice could easily fly into the Kentucky Derby under the radar and although he is merely the winner of a maiden race, he is a natural talent whose bloodlines could easily carry him over classic distances. Questions around Derby contenders, particularly one that hasn't won since his maiden victory as a two-year-old, are always abounding, but one thing is certain: Palace Malice's story will allow him to gallop into the hearts of the public. I encourage you to read his story in the words of the great turf writer Steve Haskin here.

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