Given how much I write and tweet about the Curlin babies, it’s a common misconception that Curlin is my favourite horse of all time. However, he isn’t.
That distinction goes to one of his babies, Palace Malice. Palace Malice is the whole reason I follow Curlin’s progeny in the first place. Palace Malice is the whole reason I called this little corner of the Internet Blinkers Off. He was my intriguing longer shot in the Derby last year, but ran off to set insane fractions while racing with blinkers for the first time. They came off, and he looked great winning the Belmont.
He took the handicap division by storm this year, winning four straight graded stakes. The biggest of them was the Met Mile (GI), though my favourite of them was the Gulfsream Park Handicap (GII). That is still my favourite race of all time to watch: he was running at a distance I thought was too short for him, he was coming in first off a lay, and he re-rallies to put away horses more accustomed to the distance. I loved him at three, and at four he I loved him even more. He fought, he was game, and he was just getting better with age: everything I love to see in a horse.
I’m glad they found what was wrong with Palace Malice. The Whitney was baffling, and the subpar work that led to him being scratched from the Woodward was worrisome. I’m glad the problem was something that can heal in time, a bone bruise, and not something life-threatening. I’m glad we know, and that all signs point to him being able to live a sound and healthy life at stud.
But, it still seems surreal that he is retired. Off the track. Never racing again.
I cannot fathom that there will ever be a horse I love as much as Palace Malice. When I watched him run in the Derby, I was only a relatively casual racing fan. I was getting a bit more into the sport, spending a bit more time reading about it, but was by no means a regular track denizen or a person who followed it day in and day out. I ducked out of the closing plenary at a conference to watch the Belmont, the first time I can recall that I set some definition of “real life” aside to focus on something related to racing. Palace Malice put away Oxbow, Orb, and everyone. I was hooked.
I hoped I would see him race in person someday, but that is not to be. However, I am glad that he should be healthy and sound at stud for years to come. Wherever he stands, I will be there with a pocketful of peppermints and a hug for my favourite horse.
Thank you for all the great times, Palace Malice. I love you.
And, in a couple of years? Don’t be surprised when Blinkers Off is covering two sires.