The Dogwood Stable colt finished a disappointing sixth in Saturday’s Whitney Handicap at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Moreno led wire-to-wire and covered the 1 1/8-mile race in 1:48.05 to win by a length over Itsmyluckyday. Will Take Charge came in third.
Dogwood president Cot Campbell said his prized colt’s performance was a “terrific mystery.”
“We don’t really know anything,” Campbell said in a phone interview. “He’s not even breathing hard. It was a most untypical race. He gets beat, but he doesn’t usually stop. But he did stop at the top of the stretch.”
Campbell said the Aiken-trained colt, who is now under the care of Todd Pletcher, would be examined. Campbell will wait and see before determining Palace Malice’s next race.
Palace Malice had won his first four races this year and went off in the Whitney as the 3-5 favorite. The victories in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, New Orleans Handicap, Westchester Stakes and Metropolitan Handicap lifted Palace Malice to the top spot in the latest thoroughbred poll.
Palace Malice broke cleanly from the gate and stalked Moreno for much of the race. But at the top of the stretch, Palace Malice began to fade and jockey John Velazquez couldn’t get him to mount a charge.
“I thought he was a winner at the middle of the turn,” Campbell said. “I thought we were going to the winner’s circle. Then he flattened out. That’s not him.”
Palace Malice entered the race as co-favorite for Horse of the Year honors with Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome. Campbell had planned to run him Aug. 30 in the Woodward Stakes and Sept. 27 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup as Palace Malice prepared for a showdown with California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 1.
The victory was worth $800,000 for Moreno, who went off at 10-1, and guarantees a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.