Last week, Palace Malice was supposed to return in the Westchester (GIII). He scratched, though he returned to the worktab on Tuesday. That boded well, suggesting that his foot bruise that kept him out of the race last weekend was not something serious.
Tomorrow, he gets a prep over the Belmont dirt, the Diablo Stakes.
Instead of being a mile, it is six furlongs. He broke his maiden going six and a half. Palace Malice has never gone six flat, and has gone shorter just once: a baby race at Saratoga, his debut. Six furlongs seems short for him.
He also faces some serious horses. Palace, a serious sprinter, comes in second off the lay. Clearly Now may not be the most consistent horse, but when he does find his mojo, he can be sharp. Unlike Palace Malice, he is a proven sprinter.
Part of me wants to hope. I went through this last year, after all. First off the lay at age four, in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, he cut back to a mile and ran the best race of his life. I want to think he will find that same drive and that same form tomorrow in the Diablo. But, this situation is far different. He was not pointing to this race nor was he pointing to this distance. It screams that they just needed a race under him before even considering sending him to the Met Mile, since he has not raced in the better part of the year and the Met Mile looks like it will turn up tough.
If Palace Malice is competitive tomorrow and gets something out of the race, I will have seen what I hope to see. If he wins, you will hear a guttural scream from the general direction of Chicago.