I have never been so giddy after a horse race as I was today at the conclusion of the Gulfstream Park Handicap. Palace Malice is my favourite horse ever, and I thought there was no possible way that I could love him more.
Incorrect: he has found a way. I could not be prouder of him after today.
Palace Malice was in a race that I feared was too short for him, given his better recent performances in the longer route races. He was running against Golden Ticket, a horse who has shown so much promise at a mile, and Falling Sky, a recent graded stakes winner at seven furlongs who a lot of knowledgeable people thought was ready, willing, and able to run a nice mile. Palace Malice had never gone a mile flat, and had not gone at less than a mile and a sixteenth since his seven furlong three-year-old debut, an AOC at Gulfstream where he was second, beaten 2 1/4 lengths.
He proved as a three-year-old that he is game. He showed that in the Belmont, finding a way to get up there and last for a mile and a half. He showed that even more in the Travers, where he overcame a horrendous start to finish just three quarters of a length behind Will Take Charge.
Today? He got into a stalking position. Despite being three horses wide through the far (and only) turn, he came out of there with the lead. Uncaptured got in front of them shortly thereafter, but Palace Malice fought on. He didn’t just give Uncaptured strong chase. Sure, that would have been exciting in a way, and perfectly acceptable for a first race off a layoff at a distance to which he was unaccustomed. But, Palace Malice wasn’t just going to be perfectly acceptable.
Palace Malice found a second rally.
He fought past Uncaptured, pushed to stay in front of a surging Golden Ticket, and made sure his head hit that wire first.
Palace Malice has all the fight in the world, and John Velazquez knew exactly how to ride him. When a hard-fighting horse and a brilliant jockey come together like this, amazing happens.
I love this horse.