NEW YORK, (Reuters) – Palace Malice upstaged the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes champions Saturday to win the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes, the final race of the Triple Crown series for three-year-old thoroughbreds.
Palace Malice, a 15-1 shot who finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby, won by more than three lengths with Mike Smith aboard after prevailing in a stretch run duel with Preakness winner Oxbow, who finished second ahead of Derby winner Orb.
The Belmont victor had set the early pace in the Derby only to fade at Churchill Downs, but on a sunny day with the track rated fast despite Friday’s rains, Palace Malice maintained his powerful stride, this time racing without blinders.
“Blinkers off, honestly,” Smith said about the difference in his horse this time. “He was just enjoying the trip, sucking all the air in.”
Trained by Todd Pletcher, who had a record five horses in the 14-horse field, Palace Malice fulfilled some early high hopes for the colt, who lost six of his first seven races.
“It’s huge. We always felt like he had a big one in him. He needed to put it all together,” Pletcher said from the winner’s circle.
“We were quietly confident coming in.”
Orb, the 2-1 favorite who won the Derby on a sloppy track, trailed far back in the field before mounting a rousing charge down the stretch that came up short.
Palace Malice paid $29.60, $11.20, $6.70 for a $2.00 wager in the mile and a half race, the longest test of the Triple Crown. Oxbow returned $9.90, $6.10.
Smith said Saturday’s race unfolded just as planned.
“Today was our day,” the jockey said, giving credit to trainer Pletcher. “It ran exactly like he wrote it. Perfect plan.”