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Jun 14, 2013

Palace Malice walks home to win Belmont Stakes

By: By Jeff Frank, The Sports Analyst

 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For the sixth time in the last eight years three different horses strolled into the winner's circles at Churchill Downs, Pimlico and Belmont Park.

Palace Malice, regarded as the top Todd Pletcher-trained 3-year-old all winter and spring, is the latest to win a Triple Crown event as he finally won his second career start with an easy 3 1/4-length victory in the Belmont Stakes.

The son of Curlin paid $29.60 to win, and the exacta with Preakness winner Oxbow returned $323.50. Orb, the Kentucky Derby winner, rallied for third while Incognito finished out the superfecta.

Palace Malice disposed of Preakness winner Oxbow into the stretch to win the 1 1/2-mile race in a time of 2:30 3/5 seconds. That final clocking is highly competitive with the previous three runnings as Union Rags (2012) finished up in 2:30 2/5, Ruler On Ice (2011) needed 2:30 4/5 to win over a sloppy track while Drosselmeyer (2010) scored in 2:31 3/5.

The one main difference between those runnings and this one is the fact that Union Rags took 51 seconds to run his final half-mile, and both Ruler On Ice and Drosselmeyer ran it in 50 4/5 seconds. Palace Malice, on the other hand, crawled home in 54 1/5 seconds.

Even a pair of D. Wayne Lukas-trained Belmont winners - Commendable (2000) and Thunder Gulch (1995) - came home faster (52 seconds) despite running the 1 1/2 miles in 2:31 and 2:32, respectively.

In 1976, the speedy Bold Forbes hit the mile mark in 1:36 and desperately held off the fast-closing McKenzie Bridge with the duo crossing the wire in 2:29. Bold Forbes' final four-furlongs that day was approximately six lengths faster than what Palace Malice accomplished in this year's running.

To put the 2013 Belmont Stakes in its proper perspective, Palace Malice ran the slowest final half-mile since 1932 when Faireno, trained by Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, also came home in 54 1/5 seconds. That was the previous record for the slowest final four furlongs in Belmont history.

For 80 years Faireno was all alone in the record books. In the 81st year, he is joined by Palace Malice.

The only thing in Palace Malice's favor is that the first half-mile of 46 3/5 seconds is one of the fastest in Belmont Stakes history.

The Belmont Stakes concludes one of the most disappointing 3-year-old seasons in decades. It seemed as if each Triple Crown race got worse as the series moved along. Not only that, the prep races also were pitiful as not one horse showed any resemblance of being a quality 3-year-old.

It is obvious the breed is weakening, especially when one considers the last four Belmont Stakes were all run slower than 2:30. Once again, to put that into perspective, the previous four runnings over 2:30 came over a 31-year span between 1970 and 2000. Prior to that, the next set of four were between an 18-year span of 1952 and 1969.

This year was a special one as it is the 40th anniversary of Secretariat's Triple Crown. Affirmed is the last Triple Crown winner in 1978.

Instead of focusing on the lack of a Triple Crown winner, the industry should be spending their time and energy into improving the breed so American racing does not turn into a laughingstock throughout the world.

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