Will Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice run in blinkers the next time he competes? It’s a question that is on thoroughbred racing fans’ minds because of what’s been happening during the colt’s training recently.

On Aug. 16, Palace Malice wore blinkers while working a half-mile in company with My Miss Aurelia, who was 2011’s champion 2-year-old filly. The bay colt turned in a time of :48.90 on the main track at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York.

Palace Malice is scheduled to breeze again on Saturday or Sunday. But he won’t have blinkers on for that work, according to his trainer, Todd Pletcher.

“I’m not committed to running him in blinkers,” Pletcher said in Saratoga’s notes for the media on Aug. 17. “He worked the same as he did without them. I didn’t see a big change in his personality.”

Blinkers have plastic or leather cups that are attached to a hood. They restrict a horse’s field of vision, and many trainers believe they help keep the animal from becoming distracted during a race.

Palace Malice began his 2014 campaign with four consecutive victories, but then he finished a disappointing sixth in the Grade I Whitney Handicap on Aug. 2 at Saratoga. His Hall of Fame jockey, John Velazquez, said afterward that the 4-year-old son of Curlin, “went through the whole race not paying any attention.”

Palace Malice is scheduled to return to competition on Aug. 30 in the Grade I Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. He hasn’t worn blinkers in a race since the Grade I Kentucky Derby last year, when he faded to 12th after setting a very fast early pace.

Pletcher believes that the sloppy track surface, the big crowd and the way Palace Malice was ridden from the starting gate were bigger factors in the colt’s poor Derby performance than the blinkers.

In other Palace Malice news, the colt moved up in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Top Thoroughbred poll. He’s No. 2 in the latest edition, which was released on Monday.

Palace Malice earned 323 points and nine first-place votes in the most recent survey of racing media members. He had been ranked No. 1 prior to being defeated in the Whitney.

Wise Dan, who was the Horse of the Year in 2012 and 2013, remained in the poll’s No. 1 spot. He earned 359 points and received 22 first-place votes. California Chrome, winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby and Grade I Preakness Stakes, fell from No. 2 to No. 3. He earned 322 points and received nine first-place votes.

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she’s a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


WHAT: 62nd Woodward Stakes

WHERE: Saratoga Race Course; Saratoga, New York

WHEN: Aug. 30


DISTANCE: 11/8 mile

PURSE: $600,000

NOTABLE: Aiken-trained Alpha won the 2013 Woodward Stakes … Curlin won the 2008 Woodward … Jockey John Velazquez has won three of the past four Woodward Stakes