Saying that Palace Malice is “dull and not himself,” Dogwood Stable’s president Cot Campbell announced on Sunday afternoon that the colt would not run in the grade I Woodward Stakes on Aug. 30 at Saratoga Race Course.
Campbell revealed the decision just hours after Palace Malice worked on Saratoga’s main track in upstate New York. With Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez aboard, the 4-year-old son of Curlin breezed in company with stablemate Capo Bastone and covered a half-mile in :48.67.
“The time was OK, but the gallop out was very poor,” Campbell said. “Palace Malice usually gallops out a mile faster than most horses can run, but he was quite content to pull himself up pretty quick after the work.”
Palace Malice won his first four races this year, including the grade I Metropolitan Handicap. But he finished a disappointing sixth in the grade I Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 2. Velazquez reported afterward that the bay colt “went through the whole race not paying attention.”
Campbell said that poor effort coupled with Sunday’s blah work convinced him that “it would be foolish to put Palace Malice in the entries” for the Woodward.
Palace Malice won’t gallop on Monday or Tuesday, but he is scheduled to return to the track on Wednesday, according to Campbell. So far, he and the colt’s trainer, Todd Pletcher, haven’t found anything seriously wrong with Palace Malice physically.
“After the Whitney, we went over him with a fine-tooth comb,” Campbell said. “We did a blood test and scoped him (had an endoscopic throat exam performed) to see if there was any obstruction in his breathing apparatus,” Campbell said. “He was fine. But we will certainly be super alert in the next week or two to see if anything pops up.”
Following Sunday’s work, a piece of veterinary equipment known as a hoof tester showed that there was “a slight sensitivity” in one of Palace Malice’s feet, Campbell reported.
“It was so slight that you wouldn’t usually even think about it, but if you are desperately looking for reasons why a horse is lackluster, you have to put it on the list,” Campbell said. “However, that doesn’t seem to be the problem because he also was able to jog smoothly on the asphalt (while showing no signs of lameness).”
Plans now call for Palace Malice to return to competition in the grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park in New York on Sept. 27.
“Then we hope to finish out the year with him in the (grade I) Breeders’ Cup Classic,” Campbell said.
That race is scheduled for Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park in California.
Palace Malice was the Aiken-trained Horse of the Year in 2013 when he captured the grade I Belmont Stakes. The colt has a career record of seven victories in 17 races and earnings of $2,676,135.
Palace Malice was ranked No. 2 in the Aug. 18 edition of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Top Thoroughbred Poll. He held the No. 1 spot prior to his defeat in the Whitney.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.