Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice was the favorite going into this year's Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on July 27, with good reason. The 3-year-old colt had won the Belmont Stakes on June 8 with supreme authority and, according to his connections, had only improved since that Grade 1 victory. With his entourage in tow, Palace Malice paraded around the paddock at Saratoga, slightly on the muscle with jockey Mike Smith in the saddle. Less than 15 minutes later, the pair was having their picture taken in the winner's circle.
Palace Malice delivered another major victory that afternoon, winning the 50th edition of the Jim Dandy by a length and in near-record time. (His 1:47.37 was the second fastest Jim Dandy in the history of the race).
"When you win a stakes race at Saratoga everyone knows it and appreciates it," he explains. "It's a racing crowd and they really understand the game. I love winning a race anywhere, but it's always special to win at Saratoga."
The Jim Dandy was named in honor of a 3-year-old colt that won the 1930 Travers Stakes at the incredible odds of 100-1, besting that year's Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox in the process. And for anyone who loves the history of racing, Palace Malice's win in the Jim Dandy was especially fitting. Another Aiken racing outfit - the famed Greentree Stable under the guidance of John Gaver Sr. - had won the very first running of the Jim Dandy in 1964 with a colt named Malicious. Rather similar names!
After the Jim Dandy win, the Travers (known as the Midsummer Derby) is the race on everyone's mind. With a $1 million purse, the 1 1/4 mile race attracts the top 3-year-olds in the country. Palace Malice will be there, as will Orb, winner of this year's Kentucky Derby. The Preakness winner Oxbow hurt his ankle in the Haskell Stakes on July 28 so it is highly unlikely that he will be entered, which is a shame. It's been 31 years since the winners of all three Triple Crown races have met in the Travers. It looked as if it might have happened again this year.
Another likely contender is Verrazano, who won the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 28, by an incredible 10 lengths. Verrazano, like Palace Malice, is trained by Todd Pletcher.
The Travers will be at Saratoga on August 24 and Cot Campbell is more than excited.
"Our cold was terribly impressive in winning the Jim Dandy, and he has come out of that race better than ever," he says. "My wife Anne and I went to the barn around 9:00 the night of the race and he was bouncing around his stall and I couldn't feed him peppermints fast enough.
"Mike Smith felt that Palace Malice finished up the race with something in reserve. When you watch the race, you see that Mike let up on him the last five or six jumps. He could have won by a wider margin than he did, had he needed to."
Campbell, who stays in Saratoga for the duration of the meet, sees Palace Malice each morning, and is in constant contact with the colt's trainer Todd Pletcher. Mike Smith calls California home and is currently riding a Del Mar, but he will fly back East to ride Palace Malice in the Travers.
"I've spoken with Mike on the phone and he is genuinely sold on the fact that our colt is becoming a superior racehorse," Campbell says. "While we have great respect for Verazano, I would not want to concede favoritism in the Travers at this point. As Mike says, 'Palace Malice will be the horse to beat.'"
Palace Malice's victory in the Jim Dandy pushed his lifetime earnings to $1,231,135 and he became Dogwood Stable's seventh millionaire. Summer Squall is on that list, as is his daughter Storm Song. Southjet, Wallenda, Smok'n Frolic and Limehouse are the others - pretty impressive company.
When asked how Palace Malice compares to some of Dogwood's other top runners, Campbell says: "It's difficult to compare horses of different eras, and it is a dangerous practice. Those that were so great 20 or 30 years ago automatically lose a little luster when compared with the current ones. Still, I think given Palace Malice's personality, his class, looks and running style, he is certainly right up there at the top of the list of Dogwood stars."
This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.