Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice has been nothing short of being an exemplar of excellence on the racetrack.

However, in two weeks, that will all change as the son of Curlin will be facing the toughest challenge of his career. The 3-year-old colt will be meeting his elders for the first time. The grizzled veterans of the racetrack, have earned the battle campaign ribbons they possess by competing against the best in the business, and the 1 ¼-mile, $750,000, Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 28 at Belmont Park, will hardly be a walk in the park for any of the entries.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup is an invitational race, and the entries for the Grade 1 contest will be composed of the nation’s elite runners. Palace Malice worked a half-mile this past Sunday, over the Oklahoma Training Track at Saratoga Race Course. He’s scheduled to work ⅝-mile on Sunday, and will ship to Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. on Sept. 16, said W. Cothran Campbell, Dogwood Stable president.

“He galloped out in his usual exuberance (during his work last Sunday), in a looking for more manner,” said Campbell. “He’s doing fine. The race will be as tough as it could be. Nobody expected anything else. We’re coming up to it in great shape.”

Palace Malice will have his final work in preparation for the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 22 at Belmont Park, said Campbell.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup will be an excellent prelude to the 1 ¼-mile, $5 million, Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., and the race will undoubtedly feature one of the deepest and most talented fields, with most of the nation’s top handicap horses and three of the top 3-year-olds, Palace Malice, Orb and Will take Charge.

“I hear now, Will take Charge, a lucky winner of the Travers, is going to run in the Gold Cup,” said Campbell. “I’m sure Wayne Lukas has taken a plunge to get him championship credentials, and if he were to win such a race, he would deserve them.”

A favorable post position, in a perfect world, one on the outside, rather than on the rail, would be ideal for the race, said Campbell. “I’d love to see him draw an outside post position, so he can kind of dictate what’s going on,” said Campbell, who had been admiring a picture of himself feeding Palace Malice a peppermint the night of the colt’s Jim Dandy Stakes victory, marveling at his energy and appetite. “But, the invitations go out on the 14th. We’ll know exactly who’s invited, and who is planning to run, but although we pretty much know it now.”

Campbell will be celebrating his 86th birthday, the day prior to the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

“That would be a great birthday present,” said Campbell. “It will be something to look forward to.”

Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004.