Elmont, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Former Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice rolled to an easy victory at Belmont Park in Sunday's $150,000 Westchester Handicap.
Sent off as the 1-20 favorite in the four-horse field for the mile stakes, Palace Malice settled into third behind I'm Steppin' It Up and Red Rifle as the field went up the backstretch.
Ridden by John Velazquez, Palace Malice cruised three wide around the final turn to take the lead and easily drew away down the stretch to a 9 3/4-length win over the late running Declan's Warrior. I'm Steppin' It Up finished third with Red Rifle last.
The time for the Westchester was 1:35.53 on a track labeled as good.
The Westchester win was Palace Malice's third in as many starts this year and was worth $90,000. The 4-year-old colt, trained by Todd Pletcher for Dogwood Stable, has banked $1,961,135 with six wins in 15 career starts.
Palace Malice won the New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds on March 29 with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith riding. He began his 2014 campaign with a head victory in the Gulfstream Park Handicap with Velazquez in the saddle. His next start will be in the Met Mile at Belmont Park on June 7.
"We felt like it made sense to run him between the New Orleans Handicap and the Met, and we felt like the Westchester made a lot of sense," said Pletcher. "We want us to put ourselves in a good position for the Met. Hopefully, the Whitney ($1.5 million, 1 1/8 miles, August 2, Saratoga) would be a big goal after that."
Palace Malice returned $2.10 and $2.10, and Declan's Warrior paid $2.60 for place. There was no show wagering.