Palace Malice is likely headed for a summer campaign at Saratoga Race Course, although trainer Todd Pletcher thinks that may be too far off for the winner of the 145th Belmont Stakes June 8.
"Honestly, the way he's feeling this morning, I don't know that I am going to be able to give him much time off," Pletcher said on the morning of June 9. "He's just that kind of horse. He's a high-energy, good-feeling horse. He'll go back to the track four days from now. We'll probably carry forward to the Jim Dandy."
The $600,000 Jim Dandy is July 27, followed by the $1 million Travers Aug. 24.
Both Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice and Pletcher were feeling good following the colt's 3 1/4-length victory over Preakness winner Oxbow and Kentucky Derby victor Orb at Belmont Park.
"He is a remarkable horse," said Pletcher, who was celebrating his second Belmont Stakes victory thanks to the son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. "He bounces out of his races really well. It was a tough race, a demanding race, and he surprises me how resilient he is. He was feeling very good this morning."
With three different horses having won the Triple Crown races, the 3-year-old division remains a work in progress. Palace Malice had a five-week layoff from his 12th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby until the Belmont and enjoyed an advantage over both Oxbow and Orb, who both raced in the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, the trainer noted.
"It's not coincidental at all that the horse who won the Belmont ran in the Derby and skipped the Preakness," said Pletcher, who won the 2007 Belmont with the filly Rags to Riches. "If you want to win the Belmont, it makes a lot of sense to sit out the middle one. The fresh horse is always going to have an edge, in my opinion.
"I think [Palace Malice] did more to leave the division wide open," he added. "Everyone kind of goes into the rest of the summer and the fall of the year with similar resumes. I don't think there's a clear-cut leader. Largely it will depend on what happens in the fall of the year. It will be interesting to see how they stack up when that happens."
Pletcher said the other four horses he started in the Belmont -- Revolutionary (5th), Unlimited Budget (6th), Overanalyze (7th), and Midnight Taboo (12th) -- also came out of the race in good order. He said he does not foresee starting five horses, a record for the Belmont Stakes, in any of the summer's 3-year-old tilts.
"There's a lot of nice races around so I'm sure we'll find spots for them," Pletcher said in reference to his large contingent of talented 3-year-olds. "We'll try to spread them out as best as we can, but the Travers is kind of the next big coveted prize."
The filly Unlimited Budget will most likely go to the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks July 20, he said.
Pletcher was back at the track early Sunday morning to work a number of horses for upcoming races. Among the horses working four furlongs were Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar (:49 2/5) and Dreaming of Julia (:48), both of whom are pointing to the Coaching Club American Oaks; and Verrazano (:47 2/5), who will run next in the Pegasus June 16 at Monmouth Park. Also on the worktab for Pletcher were Discreet Dancer (four furlongs in :48 3/5), Kauai Katie (:49 2/5) and Dark Thunder (five furlongs 1:01 3/5).
Elsewhere, Belmont runner-up Oxbow, who won the Preakness three weeks ago, departed Belmont Park early Sunday morning and was expected to arrive at Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas' Churchill Downs barn by 6:30 p.m. EDT.
"Everyone was tickled with his performance," said Leigh Bentley, assistant to Lukas. "He ran super and seemed to come back great. Everyone was quite pleased."
Oxbow, who ran sixth behind Orb in the Kentucky Derby, was a front-running 1 ¾-length winner at Pimlico Race Course two weeks later. In Saturday's Belmont, the Awesome Again colt was forwardly placed on a solid pace, struck the lead with a mile going in 1:36.47, and held on well to finish a clear second.
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said Kentucky Derby winner Orb was in good shape following his taxing third-place effort in the Belmont, but was "a little tired."
"I went down and looked at him a little later and he was kind of hanging his head," he said. "He was tired. He'll get a good month of rehab time and see where it takes us."
McGaughey said the five-week run through the Triple Crown series was a "thrill in a lot of ways."
"I understand the game well enough to know you can't win them all," he said. "He won five in a row, three graded stakes, two grade I's -- not bad. Hopefully we can get him back on his feet and get him back going in the right direction. I would love to run him in the Travers."
McGaughey said he shouldn't have been surprised by Palace Malice's victory.
"Palace Malice was [a surprise] but he shouldn't have been because I know how high Todd is on him," he said. "I know he'd been working really well. And Niall Brennan, who sold him, said Todd was really high on him."
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin reported that Incognito emerged from his fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes in good shape and will point toward the Saratoga meet for his next start.
"He came out great; he's happy," McLaughlin said of the Godolphin color-bearer. "He ran well. I don't know where we go, but obviously the Travers would be great to point for, with his pedigree. If he could ever win that, he'd be a nice stallion. We feel like he belongs with them, anyway."
A gray son of A.P. Indy out of two-time Grade 1 winner Octave, Incognito came from mid-pack to finish just six lengths behind Palace Malice.