A bit lost in the shuffle of Derby Madness was the Westchester Stakes (GIII) at Belmont.
Ever since Dogwood Stable announced Palace Malice’s comeback schedule, the Westchester had been planned as his comeback race. He had won it as easily as a 1/20 shot should have last year, reasserting his class and his affinity for Big Sandy. This year’s field turned up a bit tougher, particularly due to the presence of Tonalist.
The word was that he bruised his right front foot just in time to have to miss a few days of training before the race. I believe that. Though Cot Campbell had said earlier in the week that he had been looking “for the easiest spot”, and the Westchester did not turn up that way with Tonalist in the field, Palace Malice has had foot issues in the past. He had a foot bruise earlier this year that delayed his return from Aiken to trainer Todd Pletcher’s string in Florida.
Fortunately, things look like they are getting back on track for Palace Malice. He returned to the worktab today, breezing four furlongs in 49.22 at Belmont. The plan remains the Met Mile (GI) next month.
I am simultaneously excited and petrified. I cannot wait to see Palace Malice back on the track, and hope that he can come back into himself at five. After as sharp as he was for his first four races last year, it seemed like he had so much more he could have done on the track. However…a return against any kind of company after ten months off the track will be tough to ask. A return against the likes of Tonalist, Bayern, Honor Code, Tamarkuz, Private Zone, possibly even Lea?
As much as I want to see him prevail, Palace Malice will have to be a superhorse to win that.