Stakes Recap: New Orleans Handicap

Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice, unsuccessful in two starts in New Orleans last season during his sophomore season, returned as a grownup this year to capture Saturday’s Grade II New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds Race & Slots by 4 ¾-lengths as the choice of the fans.

After winning last year’s Belmont Stakes, Palace Malice ran well the rest of the year, began this season with a head tally in South Florida’s Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap and improved off of that Saturday in the Crescent City oval’s main event for older horses on the main track.

Trained by Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Todd Pletcher, the son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin was allowed to settle early, challenged for command in upper stretch and drew off willingly the rest of the way under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.

“This horse holds a special place in my heart,” said Smith.  “I’m just so happy that I got to reunite with him and he didn’t let us down.  He might be better than he was last year.  He did that pretty handily today.”

Palace Malice returned mutuels of $4.40, $2.40 and $2.10, toured the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:48.93 and increased his career earnings to $1,871,135 with his fifth victory in 14 lifetime starts.

Fox Hill Farms’ Normandy Invasion had no early speed but rallied strongly late to be easily second best, finishing 6 ¾ lengths to the good of Brittlyn Stable’s Sunbean.

Normandy Invasion paid $2.20 and $2.10 and Sunbean returned $2.80

Fordubai was fifth, Golden Soul was sixth, and Joseph Sutton’s Bradestar, who won the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap here Feb. 22, made the pace with early fractions of 23.66 and 47.85 but gave way in the lane to finish last.