Palace Malice’s next chapter

Despite being far more passionate about words than pictures, sometimes I need a picture to tell the story.

I saw the announcement on Thursday about Palace Malice retiring, and even said a few words about it.  It did not feel as sudden as his retirement last year, a retirement that had never completely felt real before hopes to bring him back arose.

In theory, I knew this second retirement was for good.  One comeback made sense.  A second would be absurd, particularly for an intact stud with an impeccable resume, whose own sire has been getting hotter by the day.

I had little time to ponder Palace Malice’s retirement in its immediate wake.  Too many Curlin babies did too many good things on the track.

Saturday, Keen Ice won the Travers.  He became Curlin’s fourth North American Grade I winner.  He followed Curalina, Stellar Wind, and Palace Malice on that list.

Sunday, Theogony captured her first stakes victory.  She had not raced in a year, but that hardly stopped her from winning the Belle Mahone Stakes at Woodbine.  A five-year-old mare, she puts even more luster on Curlin’s first crop, a group that includes stakes winners like Moulin de Mougin, Ol Donyo, Flash Forward, and of course Palace Malice.

Later on Sunday, Stellar Wind won the Torrey Pines Stakes (GIII).  That marked her fourth career graded stakes victory.  That is more than any of Curlin’s progeny so far…except for Palace Malice, who won six.

Of course, the wistful connections to Palace Malice only arose afterwards.  Saturday and Sunday, my focus remained distracted from the loss of Palace Malice on the racetrack, and focused on the achievements of Keen Ice, Theogony, and Stellar Wind in their own rights.

Today, I saw that picture, and my mind went right back to Palace Malice.  It seemed more real, in a picture.  I could read words like retirement, injury, stud.  They told the story, but still seemed distant.  Even a picture of Palace Malice on a plane with American Pharoah, Smokey, and Tourist did not make it seem final.

Seeing Palace Malice at Three Chimneys, however, did it.  That brought a certain finality to his racing career that words could not.

Palace Malice will never be back in his Belmont-winning form, or his form that won him four straight graded stakes last year, culminating in a Met Mile win.  I had not been willing to give that up after the Diablo, or even after the Alydar.  Now, I have to.  I have seen with my own eyes that he is settling in at the stud farm.

The tale of his racing days has been written.

Keen Ice, Theogony, and Stellar Wind marked a beginning, of sorts: Curlin babies on the track after the retirement of his first big star.  Still, that begins not a new book than a smooth new chapter.  Curlin’s progeny have become a force this year, and Palace Malice will not be his sire’s only legacy at stud.  He will be Curlin’s first, and the one closest to my heart, but other horses will be there to bear the standard and burnish Curlin’s breeding legacy.

Palace Malice gazing at the green grass at Three Chimneys?  Hopefully that marks the beginning of a stallion story as compelling as that of his racing days.

And, just maybe, his stud record after a few years will rival Dear Old Dad’s.

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