NEW ORLEANS — The good news came down the same afternoon last year’s Belmont Stakes was run.
“I’m retiring from being retired,” W. Cothran “Cot” Campbell announced.
No reason was given, but one might suspect that a significant factor in Campbell’s rejuvenation might well have been the promising nature of a bay 2-year-old colt he had purchased eight weeks earlier at Keeneland for one of his Dogwood Stable partnerships.
Just how far the colt now carrying the catchy name Palace Malice has moved toward delivery of that promise will be tested today when he carries Dogwood’s green and yellow polka dot silks to the post in the Risen Star Stakes, a major test for Kentucky Derby hopefuls.
“He was a big, good-looking colt,” Campbell said. “He had a nice work, but was still developing physically and was not ready to go as fast as some others in the sale, so we got him for $200,000.”
Sent to trainer Todd Pletcher to become a racehorse, Palace Malice progressed rapidly. In no time, Campbell was turning down an offer from a committed purchaser for several times the colt’s cost. While he had not been in Dogwood hands long enough to qualify for capital gains tax on the profit, a more likely reason for Campbell and his partners to turn down the offer was the suspicion that this one might be “lightning in a bottle.”
Second in his debut while pinched between horses for most of the race’s five furlongs, Palace Malice registered an impressive three and a half length victory a month later in a maiden event at Saratoga. Bucked shins knocked him out of action for the rest of last year, but the Dogwood colt returned from the layoff in mid-January with a good second over a sloppy Gulfstream Park track.
In the Risen Star, Palace Malice will be making his stakes debut and his first start around two turns, so he will be tested for class and stamina. Campbell is not overly concerned.
“He’s bred for distance, being sired by (two-time Horse of the Year) Curlin and being out of a mare that won a two-turn stakes,” Campbell said. “Everything points toward him loving two turns but, of course, he hasn’t done it yet.”
As for class, Pletcher’s holster this year is loaded with bullets and Palace Malice has been keeping distinguished company in the mornings.
“He’s been working head and head with Shanghai Bobby and Violence,” Campbell said. “And several times, he has been the stronger galloping out.”
Shanghai Bobby was undefeated last year, earning an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old in the process.
Violence will seek to remain undefeated as today’s favorite in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream.
The Risen Star will be a crowded affair, with 13 probable starters and only about 200 yards of racetrack from the starting gate to the first turn.
Dogwood has been fourth in a Kentucky Derby with Limehouse (2004), third with Impeachment (2000) and second with Summer Squall (1990). There’s a blank remaining in this equation.
Campbell hopes Palace Malice will go on from here and be the rising star to fill it.