Palace Malice Favored In The Whitney
If the post position draw for Saturday's Whitney looked a lot like the one for last year's Travers, there's a reason.
Because this year's Whitney is, in a lot of ways, a rematch of last year's Travers.
Four of Saturday's nine runners finished in the top five of last summer's Saratoga derby: Moreno, Palace Malice, Romansh, and Will Take Charge. In August of 2013, the final of those four ran down the front running Moreno to win the crown by the slimmest of noses. Palace Malice, who stumbled badly out of the break, rallied strongly to finish fourth, with Romansh fifth.
This year though, in the Whitney, even a fall at the break may not keep Palace Malice from the Winner's Circle - the Todd Pletcher trainee drew the five post on Wednesday morning and has been installed the even money favorite on the morning line.
"This year, his accompishments are the best of the race," said Pletcher Palace Malice, who enters the Whitney with four wins in four races this year - including a score last time out on Belmont Stakes Day, a year removed from a statement three length win in that Tripe Crown race's 2013 edition. "The way he's training, I think he's coming up to it in top shape."
And Pletcher isn't alone in his praise. Most in the racing world would name Palace Malice the leading contender to win Horse of the Year, and even some of his rivals are commending the colt's work. Trainer Eric Guillot, who saddles the front-running Moreno on Saturday, told reporters he thought the Colt was the best horse in last year's Travers. "And he's come back to prove it," Guillot continued. "Palace Malice is real good."
D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of Will Take Charge and a man for whom Todd Pletcher worked before opening his own shop and becoming the game's best, heaped his own praise on the colt. "I think he's a wonderful horse, a very good horse. Very solid," Lukas said after voicing his displeasure with Will Take Charge's inside post position.
"They said 'one,' I thought 'oh hell'" said Lukas. "I think it could [compromise us]...I would not have chosen it."
Lukas, though, whose Travers champion is the race's second choice at 4-1, isn't giving anything to the heavy favorite.
"We won [last year] and we were 3-Year-Old Champion. And I think we met after that race and we were still the best," he said of his colt's rivalry with Palace Malice. "[Will Take Charge is] really good. I have no excuses going in. I love the way he's going in to the race. I'm looking forward to it; I have no reservations at all."
And even if others are ready to crown Palace Malice the best, he isn't. "He's going to have to prove it. We can talk about it, but you got to go out there and do it. Don't tell me, show me."
1 - Will Take Charge - 4/1
2 - Prayer for Relief - 20/1
3 - Moreno - 10/1
4 - Itsmyluckyday - 12/1
5 - Palace Malice -1/1
6 - Departing - 6/1
7 - Romansh - 10/1
8 - Golden Ticket - 20/1
9 - Last Gunfighter - 15/1