The plan called for a good break from the gate and then for the Aiken-trained colt to settle in behind the pacesetters, bide his time and make his move when jockey Mike Smith felt it to be appropriate.
Palace Malice broke alertly all right, but Goldencents to his inside and Itsmyluckyday to his outside were on their toes as well and things became competitive right away. So, as the field passed the finish post for the first time, the Dogwood Stable colt was, surprisingly, vying for the lead. The teletimer flashed 22 2/5 seconds, very fast considering the condition of the sloppy track.
Swinging into the first turn things went from bad to worse.
“The blinkers sharpened him too much,” Dogwood Stable president Cot Campbell said. “Mike couldn’t hold him. He said he did everything he could and he still could not apply any restraint.”
By the time Palace Malice straightened for the run down the backstretch, he had covered a half mile in a blazing 45 1/5 seconds and his fate was sealed. He had run the second-fastest half mile (tied with two others) in Derby history, despite the sea of mud.
“He set a suicidal pace and you just can’t do that and win the Kentucky Derby,” Campbell said. “The blinkers were the villain.”
To the casual observer, Palace Malice seemed to be doing fine as he opened a three-length lead down the backside. His three-quarter mile fraction of 1:09 4/5 was tied for the fourth-fastest ever run in a Derby.
However, shortly thereafter, the dance was through.
Ironically, the Dogwood colt played a vital role in the victory of Orb by cooking not only himself but all of those in close pursuit. None were around at the finish.
The Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown, is not in Palace Malice’s plans.
“We’ll give him 60 days off and aim for a summer campaign,” Campbell said.
And it can be pretty certain that blinkers aren’t in those plans, either.