Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Palace Malice notched a convincing victory in the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at Saratoga July 27.
The victory appeared to set up Palace Malice perfectly for the Grade 1, $1 million Travers on Aug. 24, a race in which the Dogwood Stable colt will try to become the 31st Belmont Stakes winner to take the “Mid-Summer Derby.”
His winning time of 1:47.37 was the second-fastest Jim Dandy at 1 1/8 miles since the race’s inauguration in 1964, behind Louis Quatorze’s 1:47.26 in 1996.
“He was better than last time [in the Belmont],” said Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. “Those are kind of big words to say after winning the Belmont, but he truly was, and with room to grow. The last sixteenth of a mile he was well within himself. He was searching for more ground, if I needed it. I think he’ll get every inch of [the Travers'] mile and a quarter, I really do.”
Will Take Charge, who finished 17 lengths behind Palace Malice in the Belmont, came on late to gain second, with Moreno 2 ½ lengths back in third.
“Everything went absolutely as we talked about it this morning when Mike and I went over the race,” said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. “We felt like Moreno would be the pacesetter. The only thing we were trying to figure out was if we’d be laying second or third.
“He relaxed nicely and finished up pretty well in a very, very good time,” added Pletcher, who won the Jim Dandy for the sixth time. “We got the race over the track. The horse keeps getting better and better and today was arguably his best performance yet. Hopefully, on to the Travers.”
The 6-5 favorite in the field of nine 3-year-olds, Palace Malice returned $4.70 for a $2 win bet, and earned $360,000 for Dogwood Stable. Overall, the son of Curlin is 3-3-1 from nine starts with a bankroll of $1,231,135, having his maiden at the Spa last summer.
“He finished up well and I think it augers well for the Travers,” said Dogwood Stable’s Cot Campbell. “But Travers or not, this is a great race to win and a great town to win it in. God almighty, I’m so pleased.”
Likely to join Palace Malice in the Travers from the Jim Dandy are runner-up Will Take Charge and third-place finisher Moreno.
“He’s a little bit light, and he’s just getting his growth; the next 30 days should make a difference,” said Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas of Will Take Charge. “I can see him being very effective in the Travers; I think he’ll even get better late in the fall.”
Moreno, who two races back broke his maiden in his ninth start, is also under consideration for the Travers, said trainer Eric Guillot.
Following Moreno under the wire were Bashaar, Code West, Looking Cool, Perfect Title, Mylute, and Freedom Child. Vyjack was scratched.