Almost two years after trainer Linda Rice claimed Palace at Belmont, the son of City Zip paid off with a Grade I win at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.
Palace got up to win the Alfred G. Vanderbilt, adding to the success Rice has enjoyed here, including the Grade I Hopeful with City Zip in 2000.
“I started out in a Grade I at Saratoga with 2-year-old purchases,” Rice said. “I had to go to Plan B, so we have to claim our way to the Grade I.”
Rice claimed Palace as a 3-year-old on Oct. 6, 2012. Under her tutelage, he is a combined 6-5-0 from 13 starts in his 4- and 5-year-old years. He has won his last two six-furlong graded stakes, having won the Grade II True North in June at Belmont.
City Zip was moved to Rice’s barn during the summer of his 2-year-old year, and Rice brought him to Saratoga to sweep all three 2-year-old stakes, capped by a dead-heat win in the Grade I Hopeful. He was 4-0-1 from five lifetime starts here, and since his retirement to stud, Rice has frequently acquired his progeny.
Palace had to work to stay close to the hot pace being set by favored Happy My Way, who pushed through fractions of 22.13 and 44.49. Jockey Cornelio Velasquez kept Palace within two to three lengths while moving ahead of Lemon Drop Dream and Bahamian Squall, who could not keep up with the hot pace.
“It looked like the 5 horse, Happy My Way, was on a loose lead, so obviously, I was somewhat concerned,” Rice said. “But this horse is such a competitor. He’s got the heart of a lion, and Cornelio went after him early and was able to run him down in the stretch.”
With just over a quarter-mile to go, Velasquez started asking Palace for more, and he gave it. With less than a sixteenth to run, Palace poked ahead of Happy My Way, continuing on to win by one length.
“I broke good, I stayed in behind [Happy My Way],” Velasquez said. “I wanted to wait for the last three-sixteenths and have him come in the end. He came fast. He’s a very good horse.”
Palace paid $6.20 to win, $3.20 to place and $2.50 to show. Happy My Way returned $3.20 and $2.60, and another 21⁄2 lengths back, Falling Sky paid $3.90.
Happy My Way trainer Joseph Orseno said this being the first race back after winning the Maryland Sprint on May 17, he was happy with the effort.
“I said all along, he needed a freshener,” Orseno said. “We were going to do it now. We gave him 21⁄2 months off [after] that last race. I did not lean on him very hard to get him ready for this, because my big picture is November [the Breeders’ Cup Sprint].”
Rice hasn’t put much thought into her next spot for Palace, though the Grade I Forego on Aug. 30 has some appeal.
“Truthfully, I was just trying to get to today,” Rice said. “I know the next spot here at Saratoga is seven furlongs. If he’s training well into it, we still might give it a try, even though I think the three-quarters is a better distance for him. We’ll see how it turns out.”
Chad Brown filly Dayatthespa set the pace through the De La Rose, but was unable to hold off Filimbi in the stretch. The Bill Mott filly rallied along the outside in the far turn of the mile-long inner-turf race for fillies and mares 4 and up, putting away Dayatthespa in the final furlong.
Dayatthespa had pushed the pace with Alaura Michele, but Alaura Michele wilted after a half-mile in 46.82, leaving Dayatthespa to be trailed by Ready Signal into the turn. Filimbi made her move under jockey Joel Rosario and passed them both to win by 13⁄4 lengths, with another Brown horse, Pianist, coming on for third.
Having not raced since Nov. 2 last year, Big Blue Kitten came off a nine-month layoff and closed strong to win the Lure, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for horses 3 and up, for Brown under jockey Joe Bravo.
He trailed the field through the first quarter-mile and was still next-to-last in eighth after six furlongs. Plainview showed the field the fast way around the track through fractions of 23.28 and 46.94, but entered the stretch with a pack of rivals charging behind him. Big Blue Kitten made his run from the top of the stretch, angling out to find room to run. Bio Pro and Legendary also were coming up to the outside of Plainview, but Big Blue Kitten came in three-quarters of a length ahead of Bio Pro for the win. Another three-quarters of a length back, Legendary and Plainview dead-heated for third.