NEW ORLEANS — When asked to assess the prospects of Dogwood Stable’s colt, Palace Malice, in the Louisiana Derby several days before Saturday’s race, Cot Campbell led off with a qualifier, “In the absence of bad luck, I have to think he has an awfully good chance to win it.”
In racing, there’s good luck, there’s bad luck and there can be worse luck. The latter is an apt description of Palace Malice’s trip over nine furlongs of the Fair Grounds race course, where the Dogwood horse finished seventh.
Favored Revolutionary beat long shot Mylute by a neck.
The difficulty started with the draw, when Palace Malice received the number two post position. While this spot in the gate generally assures a horse of a ground-saving trip around the first turn, the threat exists – especially in a full field of 14 – that he might not have the opportunity to get off the rail and find free space to run, when the time comes.
Palace Malice did not break alertly when the gate opened and jockey Edgar Prado found his horse shuffled back to eighth place as the field rounded the first turn.
Heading down the backstretch, things did not yet appear to be a debacle in the making, for the pace was quick – the quarter in 22.4 seconds, the half in 46.1 – and contested, as long shots Hip Four Sixtynine and Titletown Five dueled for the lead.
Palace Malice began to pass horses and narrow the gap separating the two leaders from the rest of the pack and, as the race approached the far turn, the colt appeared to be in the catbird seat. But Prado was already sensing the coming difficulty. Passing the half mile pole, he tried to ease Palace Malice to the outside. But there was no room, as other contestants were surging forward to challenge the leaders.
Trapped on the rail, Prado had but one real chance. As horses tire in a race, they often drift away from the rail, leaving a hole for a stronger runner to come through. Had the pacesetters cooperated, a very different conclusion might have followed, the ultimate result being Palace Malice and the Dogwood contingent in the winner’s circle. But it was not to be. Behind a wall of horses in the homestretch, Prado tried to bull his colt out of the pen. But Code West, just to his outside, would have none of it.
From that point, there was nothing Palace Malice or Prado could do to enter contention for the win and place spots that carried with them an assurance of inclusion in this year’s Kentucky Derby field.
Understandably, Campbell was dismayed as he reviewed the race.
“He had no place to go at any point in the race,” Campbell lamented. “Edgar reported that he was wanting to run and that he went up on his own to third without having to be asked. But from there, he could not get clear. There was no absence of bad luck today.”
Not quite ready to concede that there is no Run for the Roses in Palace Malice’s future, Campbell noted, “If he comes out of this thing all right, we’d have to take a look at the Blue Grass (to be run three weeks hence at Keeneland). He deserves another chance.”
One last last chance to make it to Louisville, Ky., would be appropriate for Dogwood’s snakebit colt.