Palace Malice seeking Alydar crown

Profile Picture: Jen Caldwell

Jen Caldwell

August 6th, 2015

If they awarded grades to races based on who actually entered, then Sunday’s $100,000 Alydar S. at Saratoga might rate a Grade 2.

The 1 1/8-mile contest drew a field of 12 and, more importantly, includes Palace Malice, Golden Ticket, Noble Moon, Neck ‘n Neck and Mylute, all proven graded runners.

Palace Malice is probably the biggest draw in the Alydar. The Todd Pletcher trainee boasts wins in the Belmont S. (G1), Metropolitan H. (G1), Jim Dandy S. (G2), New Orleans H. (G2), Gulfstream Park H. (G2) and Westchester S. (G3). He also placed in three other graded contests, including the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), and has banked more than $2.3 million lifetime.

The five-year-old son of Curlin just made his seasonal debut on May 10 at Belmont Park, finishing third in the Diablo S. He was actually supposed to go for a title defense in the May 2 Westchester but was forced to miss that eight-furlong event due to a foot issue. Instead, the Westchester turned into a winning return for another Belmont Stakes scorer in Tonalist.

The Diablo was Palace Malice’s first try outside of graded competition since his third career start, an allowance/optional claimer, in January 2013. Sandwiched between the Diablo and that optional claimer were 14 graded races.

The only blemish on Palace Malice’s 2014 record came from a sixth-place run in the Whitney H. (G1) last August. He’s bypassing that race on Saturday in favor of the Alydar, which appears to be a decent spot for his second try of 2015 and first in more than three months.

There are many lining up in the Alydar hoping to derail his chances, though.

Noble Moon is a hit or miss sort who captured last year’s Jerome S. (G2) and sandwiched a well-beaten eighth in the Met Mile between nice runner-up efforts against allowance/optional claimers this season. Neck ‘n Neck had his best year in 2012, taking the lucrative Indiana Derby (G2) as well as the Ack Ack H. (G3) and Matt Winn S. (G3), but has also consistently found his way into the top three of graded events since then.

Golden Ticket is best known for dead-heating with Alpha in the 2012 Travers S. (G1), but has proven to be more than a one-hit wonder with credible performances against graded competition, including runner-up efforts in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and Stephen Foster H. (G1) in 2013.

Mylute took part in the 2013 Triple Crown, finishing fifth in that year’s Kentucky Derby (G1) and third in the Preakness S. (G1). He’s triumphed against allowance/optional claiming rivals but shows just one placing in a stakes since then and will be looking to round back into form in the Alydar.

Bay of Plenty and Empire Dreams are a pair of New York specialists, with the former romping at Aqueduct and Belmont Park before closing out 2014 with a second in the Discovery H. (G3) and the latter racking up a bunch of state-bred stakes victories and placings.

The rest of the Alydar field is comprised of Carter H. (G1) third Dream Saturday; last-out allowance/optional claiming winner Souper Lucky, who was third in the Westchester; stakes-placed C J’s Awesome; lightly raced Mexikoma, who captured his most recent against allowance rivals off a 13-month break; and English import Matrooh, who is three-for-four this year.

Palace Malice photo courtesy of NYRA/Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography