Palace Malice was 1-20 against three hapless opponents in the Grade 3 Westchester at Belmont on Sunday. But John Velazquez seemed intent on having his horse get something out of the exercise beyond the formality of the $90,000 purse award for what was essentially a public workout. He hand rode his horse out vigorously right to the wire, pre-empting, in this case, the debate over how many theoretical speed figure points one should, or should not, add to an effort in which a horse wins under wraps. Palace Malice, a Today in Racing favorite for year-end honors, earned a career best speed figure of 119, getting the final quarter in a solid 24 1/5 seconds. Taking a look at his past performances coming into the race, we can see him progressing figure-wise towards the 120’s level at which one would expect he’ll need to be at in order to win the Classic this fall, if all goes well. (Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge both earned 121’s in last year’s edition.)
No reason to think he won’t continue to move forward as the season goes on. However, you’ve missed the boat as far as futures odds for the Classic goes. I’m seeing him listed in the 8-1 range. The way things go in this sport, I’d consider that fair odds for him, or anyone, just getting to the starting gate.
Later in the card, Fiftyshadesofhay ($5.40) won the Grade 2 Ruffian, getting the mile in 1:35 3/5, and earning a TFUS speed figure of 105. The final time was actually only 1/5th of a second slower than that run by Palace Malice. However, the track was drying during the day – it was rated fast for the Ruffian after being labeled good for the Westchester – so we obviously have the track rated as being faster as the day went on. Backers of the winner couldn’t have been pleased as the horses rounded the turn and Tom Durkin, sounding more relaxed in the booth after announcing his retirement the other day, noted, with some consternation, that Fiftyshadesofhay was “under a ride, but no real serious response yet.” Perhaps it took some time for her to get accustomed to her surroundings in her first try at Belmont Park before launching her winning rally.
Or maybe it was just a case of the taxing pace taking its toll. The first half was run in a zippy 45 1/5, while the second half of the mile affair was run in 50 2/5. We all love our speed and pace figures, but sometimes one needs to look no further than the raw times in order to get the full story. My Wandy’s Girl, who tracked the hot pace, was assigned the top figure in the race (107). (As you may know, our speed figures factor pace into the final calculation, so the winner doesn’t necessarily get the top number. More on TimeformUS speed figures here.)
– In Preakness news, Social Inclusion, apparently recovered from whatever it was that kept him out of a Gulfstram prep last weekend, had a solid workout at Pimlico this morning.
Working by himself on a quiet track at about 8:40 a.m., Social Inclusion set splits of 12.20 for his first eighth-mile, 22.40 for his first quarter, and 35.60 for three furlongs. He ran his fourth furlong in about 11.40 seconds for the 47 official clocking, and proceeded to gallop out five furlongs in 59.60 seconds and six furlongs in 1:13.60, according to track clockers. Contreras didn’t fully pull Social Inclusion up until he had nearly reached the finish line a second time. [Daily Racing Form]
Social Inclusion will be making only his 4th career start. He certainly appears to have the raw talent to make the Preakness an interesting challenge for California Chrome, though I don’t understand why anyone would be concerned about an early pace duel. California Chrome has surely proven that he does not need to be on the lead. The Derby winner galloped at Churchill yesterday, and will fly to Pimlico today on the same plane as fellow Preakness entrants General a Rod, Ride on Curlin, and Pablo del Monte. I still don’t know who the latter is. I presume that, as opposed to the others, who have yet to prove themselves worthy, California Chrome will be flying first class.
Ria Antonia, the filly who could manage no better than sixth in the Kentucky Oaks, has now been confirmed for the Preakness by her latest new trainer, Tom Amoss. I don’t think much of her chances. More interesting could be whether she still has the same trainer by post time.