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Stakes Advance: Palace Malice Favored in New Orleans Handicap
Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice, hero of last spring’s Belmont Stakes as the final jewel of racing’s 2013 Triple Crown, will go to the post in Saturday’s Grade II New Orleans Handicap with 121 pounds and the favorite’s mantle in the field of eight older horses.
The New Orleans Handicap, contested at nine furlongs, is the Crescent City oval’s main event for older horses and has been contested as part of the Louisiana Derby Day program in recent years along with the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks and the Grade II Mervin Muniz Handicap. Saturday’s Louisiana Derby Day is the penultimate racing day of Fair Grounds’ 2013-2014 season.
Palace Malice, a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, is trained by five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher who also conditioned last year’s New Orleans Handicap winner Graydar, will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the New Orleans ‘Cap and break from the outside in the field of eight.
Following his Belmont score last year, Palace Malice won Saratoga’s Grade II Jim Dandy, was beaten less than a length for the win in that upstate New York oval’s Grade I Travers and was runner-up in Belmont’s Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup.
In his lone start this season as a 4-year-old, Palace Malice returned to competition to win South Florida’s Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 8.
Next in the weights for the New Orleans is Zayat Stable’s Prayer for Relief, who will shoulder 119 pounds including Shaun Bridgmohan and break from post #4. Now making his first start for trainer Dale Romans, Prayer for Relief won Fair Ground’ $75,000 Tenacious Handicap in December and then finished third in the $100,000 Louisiana Handicap. In the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap here on Feb. 22 he finished sixth as the choice in the wagering after racing wide while under the tutelage of Steve Asmussen.
Joseph Sutton’s Bradester, in the New Orleans Handicap with 117 pounds, may pose a challenge. Trained by Eddie Kenneally, he won Fair Grounds’ Mineshaft Handicap as the final designed prep for this race. Jockey James Graham will ride and break from the rail post.
Brittlyn Stable’s Sunbean will carry 116 pounds in the New Orleans Handicap and break from post #6 with regular rider Richard Eramia in the irons. The Louisiana-bred has won his last four starts in a row but was racing against state-bred company.
Fox Hill Farms’ Normandy Invasion, trained by Chad Brown, andJim Tafel’s Fordubai, conditioned by Greg Geier, both get in the New Orleans ‘Cap with 115 pounds. Normandy Invasion finished fifth in Fair Grounds’ Grade II Risen Star Stakes last year and will break from post #5 with Rosie Napravnik astride, while Fordubai, who won this season’s Louisiana Handicap but finished third in the Mineshaft, will break from post #7 with Robby Albarado aboard.
Lothenbach Stable’s Mister Marti Gras, conditioned by Neil Pessin, is assigned 114 pounds in the New Orleans Handicap but is cross-entered in the Mervin Muniz. He was ninth in the Mineshaft, has jockey Florent Geroux named and would break from post #2 in this race.
Charles Fipke’s Golden Soul, trained by Dallas Stewart, gets in lightest of all with 112 pounds and will break from post #3 with Brian Hernandez Jr listed for the saddle. Golden Soul will be making his first start of the year but finished second in last year’s Kentucky Derby.