On September 5 of last year, Palace Malice retired. September 5 of this year was supposed to be a little different: a start in the Woodward.
That will not happen. Today, Palace Malice retired.
I had not given up, despite how hard I kept trying to cull my expectations. I was still waiting for him to round back into form. The Diablo was a six-furlong sprint, too short for him, and his first race off a very long lay. He went longer in the Alydar. There, he did not win, but he showed enough flashes of run that I was not willing to give up on the idea that he had one more huge race in him.
I am glad his connections did his comeback the right way. The return to the races was never smooth, but they always worked around it. The races came sporadically, when he was healthy enough to train and try. Out of five original target races, he made none of them…but, to the credit of his team, it means he was never forced into any of them.
Now, he has had another setback, another injury. He has been retired, this time for good, and will stand stud at Three Chimneys next year.
Just like last year, I wonder what could have been. I wonder…what if he hadn’t been injured last year? What if he had not been so fragile this year? What if he had that one more big race inside him, the one I hoped to see?
These questions stem from disappointment, and mean nothing in the long run.
On the bright side?
Palace Malice helped get me into horse racing. Ducking out of a conference to watch the 2013 Belmont was the first time I set “real life” aside for horse racing; two years later, horse racing has increasingly become my real life.
Palace Malice inspired me to follow Curlin’s progeny. He opened the door to discover and follow so many other horses with whom he shares a sire. This pursuit introduced me to stakes stars like Ride On Curlin, Diversy Harbor, and Keen Ice, horses I would likely have seen anyway, but would not have followed so closely had they not shared a sire with Palace Malice. Following the Curlin babies has also introduced me to horses I would never have known otherwise: the persistent Federal Agent, the plucky Reversiontothemean, the beautifully named Larrymoeandcurlin.
And, thanks to Palace Malice, we all have some thrilling races to enjoy again and again.
Thank you for being you, Palace Malice. Enjoy retirement…and though I never saw you race in person, I hope I can see you at the farm sometime, and thank you in person for everything.