It was upset time at the Belmont Stakes for an eighth consecutive year as 13-1 shot Palace Malice took the lead with a quarter-mile remaining in Saturday’s final leg of the Triple Crown and pulled away from Preakness winner Oxbow and Kentucky Derby winner Orb to capture the 145th running before a crowd of 47,562.
Palace Malice, who skipped the Preakness after finishing 12th in the Derby, won for just the second time in eight lifetime starts and paid $29.60. Under jockey Mike Smith, who rode Drosselmeyer to victory in the 2010 Belmont, Palace Malice covered the 1½ miles in a pedestrian 2:30.70 and was 3¼ lengths clear of Oxbow.
“This feels a lot better than last year,” said Smith, whose mount, Paynter, was overtaken in the final strides by Union Rags in the 2012 Belmont. “Today meant a lot to me.
“He [Palace Malice] was just so relaxed, and had great rhythm,” Smith added. “Down the back side, he pricked his ears every now and then, and took a deep breath of air. I felt very confident he was going to run well. One of the closers was going to have to run a race of a lifetime to get by.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who saddled five horses in the race, believed Palace Malice was ready to fire a huge effort after three outstanding workouts at Belmont between May 19-June 2. Pletcher was particularly excited about a five furlong breeze (1:00.24) and strong gallop-out on May 27. “It was as good as a work I’ve ever seen a horse put forth in the morning,” he said. “There wasn’t a horse training any better. We really felt there was a big one in him.”
The 14-horse field was the Belmont’s largest since 1996. Orb, coming off a fourth-place finish in the Preakness, went off the favorite at 2-1 and completed a trifecta that returned $931 for a $2 wager. Pletcher’s other starters were Revolutionary (5th), Unlimited Budget (6th), Overanalyze (7th) and Midnight Taboo (12th.)
“I was just hoping he’d have an absence of bad luck,” said Cot Campbell, Palace Malice’s 86-year-old owner. “And not necessarily get a good break, but just don’t have anything go against us. We didn’t do good in the Derby, and God knows we went good today.”
It was a relatively trouble-free trip for all. Frac Daddy and Freedom Child grabbed for the early lead from the No. 1 and 2 posts, respectively. Oxbow, who three weeks earlier went wire-to-wire in the Preakness, also broke well and assumed the lead at the midway mark — ¾ of a mile — as Palace Malice moved to third. It was around the final turn when Oxbow’s jockey, Gary Stevens, glanced to right and shouted some words to Smith as he and Palace Malice took charge. “You go on with him big boy, you’re moving better than me,” Stevens said.
It was the fourth time in five years each race of the Triple Crown was won by a different horse.