Palace Malice seized the lead at the top of the stretch and won the $1 million, 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes on Saturday to become the third winner in three Triple Crown races this year.
Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Mike Smith, Palace Malice insured that neither Kentucky Derby-winner Orb nor Preakness champion Oxbow would end the year with two-thirds of US flat racing’s coveted treble.
Oxbow, ridden by Gary Stevens and trained by D. Wayne Lukas, finished second while Orb, whose late rally under jockey Joel Rosario wasn’t enough, was third.
The triumph in the 145th running of the Belmont was Smith’s second in the race traditionally dubbed the Test of the Champion. He piloted Drosselmeyer to victory in 2010.
It was especially sweet after the veteran jockey’s 2012 season of Triple Crown frustration, when he finished second in all three races.
Smith said the longer distance compared to the other Triple Crown events and sweeping turns of the Belmont Park track gave Palace Malice a chance to shine, as he he failed to do in a 12th-place Kentucky Derby finish.
More comfortable without the blinkers he wore at Churchill Downs, Palace Malice was in his element throughout, Smith said.
“Today, the whole time he’s just enjoying the trip and sucking all the air in,” said Smith, adding that his mount had no problem with the distance.
“The whole key was getting him into that rhythm he was in,” Smith said. “He’s bred to run all day.”
Eleven horses have completed the Triple Crown sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, but the last was Affirmed in 1978.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]