Winners of Triple Crown races prepping for summer showdown

Palace Malice, left, and jockey Mike Smith won the Belmont Stakes by 31/4 lengths over Preakness winner Oxbow and Kentucky Derby victor Orb.
Palace Malice, left, and jockey Mike Smith won the Belmont Stakes by 31/4 lengths over Preakness winner Oxbow and Kentucky Derby victor Orb. AP

There is significant tout surrounding the potential guest list at Saratoga Race Course for Aug. 24 if all expected participants stay on course.

Should all plans hold, the classic trio of Orb, Oxbow and Palace Malice, respective winners of this year's Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, will line up to try and settle some intra-divisional debate by racing in the 144th running of the Grade I Travers Stakes.

While Orb is training at bucolic Fair Hill in Maryland, Palace Malice and Oxbow will test their competitive form this weekend for the first time since the Triple Crown races.

Palace Malice was the 5-2 favorite in the morning line when entries were taken Wednesday for Saturday's Grade II, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes.

Oxbow, Grade I winner Verrazano and Kentucky Derby runner-up Golden Soul are all scheduled to run in Sunday's $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, leaving Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice as the clear, but not overwhelming, class of an intriguing field of 10 in the 11⁄8-mile Jim Dandy.

Moreno, explosive winner of the Grade II Dwyer Stakes, joins fellow graded-stakes winners Will Take Charge, Vyjack and 7-2 second choice Mylute in the Jim Dandy lineup.

The Palace Malice that broke through his underachieving barrier with a 31/4-length victory in the Belmont Stakes had the look a horse who might be turning the corner. Always a sparkler in the mornings amongst trainer Todd Pletcher's brigade of sophomores, the son of Curlin showed greater professionalism in stalking a fast Belmont pace — a stark contrast from when he got rank on the lead while wearing blinkers for the first time in the Kentucky Derby.

"If anything, he's just getting better and better and has moved forward since the Belmont," Pletcher said of Palace Malice, who has two wins in eight career starts. "He's trained really well. I think we need a bridge from the Belmont to the Travers, and this is a good place to do it."

"He's gotten bigger and stronger, and it seems like he took that race really well," Pletcher said. "He's been really push-button. After the Belmont was the first time we breezed him by himself, and I wasn't sure what to expect, but he seems to handle that really well. He was relaxed, but he picked it up when he needed to."

Palace Malice broke his maiden over the Saratoga track last August before falling into a pattern of efforts that showed glimmers of promise but frustrated his people with how much he left on the table.

In the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in April, Palace Malice held a short lead in deep stretch only to get caught by Java's War late. When the bay colt faded to finish 12th in the Kentucky Derby, it may have represented the rock-bottom he needed to hit in order to start a surge forward.

"He's a May foal, so he's starting to come into his own," Pletcher said. "If anything, I think the Derby and the Belmont have propelled him forward."

Will Take Charge joined his stablemate Oxbow in competing in all three Triple Crown races, but the leggy son of Unbridled's Song regressed in form in each race.

He finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby after having his momentum halted in the lane when he ran up on a fading Verrazano. Will Take Charge was seventh in the Preakness and never got into the running while coming home 10th in the Belmont.

"He's had some rough trips. I'm hoping this track with bigger, wider turns will be a little better for him," said Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of Will Take Charge.

With an honest amount of pace present, the late-running Mylute could get the trip he needs to get his first graded-stakes win. After getting up for fifth in the Kentucky Derby, the colt trained by Tom Amoss closed well to finish a strong third in the Preakness, especially given the soft fractions Oxbow was allowed to steal away with on the front end.

"He's been doing really well since he's been here, almost two weeks," Amoss said of the son of Midnight Lute. "It's right in his backyard, and there will be some pace in the race, from what we can tell."


When: 5:45 p.m.

Where: Saratoga Race Course

Purse: $600,000 (Grade II)

Distance: 11⁄8 miles

For: 3-year-olds

TV: NBC Sports


When: Saturday, 5:45 p.m.

Where: Saratoga Race Course

Purse: $600,000 (Grade II)

Distance: 11⁄8 miles

PP Horse Jockey Odds

1 Bashaar Castellano 15-1

2 Code West Rosario 6-1

3Will Take ChargeAlvarado 12-1

4 Moreno Ortiz 10-1

5 Palace Malice Smith 5-2

6 Perfect TitleBridgmohan20-1

7 Freedom Child Saez 4-1

8 Mylute Napravnik 7-2

9 Looking Cool Prado 15-1

10 Vyjack Velazquez 12-1