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Kentucky Derby Contenders: Goldencents, Palace Malice & Oxbow

With the field of 20 now set for the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby, let’s take a look back at the stakes and prep races that led up to Churchill Downs, and examine which horses did what.


This horse has made as much noise for his on-track exploits as he has with his off-track ones.
No, not the horse itself – rather, one of his minority owners.

University of Louisville men’s basketball head coach Rick Pitino is the aforementioned stakeholder, owning a five percent interest in Goldencents. As such, one of the biggest weekends on the racing calendar coincided with one of the biggest weeks of Pitino’s life.

Goldencents captured the Santa Anita Derby on the same weekend Pitino’s Louisville team held off Wichita State in the NCAA Final Four. Shortly afterward, Pitino would capture his first national title at Louisville with a championship game victory over the University of Michigan.

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That story captured a lot of headlines, and with good reason. Both Pitino and Goldencents have shown winning pedigree lately, though it’s Goldencents who has the bigger stakes ahead as he comes into Churchill Downs as one of the favorites in terms of Kentucky Derby betting.

Palace Malice

Palace Malice hasn’t received a ton of buzz leading up to the Derby, probably because he’s third (or even fourth) in the pecking order of Todd Pletcher’s powerhouse stable. With most of the headlines going to Verrazano and Revolutionary, Palace Malice has hung back and remained quiet, though that’s not to say he hasn’t impressed those looking to bet on the Kentucky Derby online.

In January, he finished second on a sloppy track at Gulfstream, a result that gave him some much-needed momentum for Derby qualification. That was followed by a disastrous outing at the Grade II Louisiana Derby – Palace Malice got stuck inside behind traffic, and finished seventh – followed by somewhat of a “regroup” by Pletcher.

Rather than go back to the drawing board, the veteran trainer threw Palace Malice back into the mix, and the move paid off. He recorded a solid second place finish at the Grade I Blue Grass at Keeneland, running close with eventual winner Java’s War.

That result was enough to qualify Palace Malice for the derby, and keep “Pletcher’s Army” going strong.


Oxbow’s a curious case study. He was one of the stars of the early stages of prep races, but fell a little bit back to earth as the Derby drew closer.

That said, the highlights were plenty for this Kentucky Derby contender.

Oxbow captured the first points race in Louisiana – the Louisiana Derby – under the new Churchill Downs qualifying system for 2013. Given it was the inaugural race under the new system, many eyes were fixated on the race, and Oxbow picked a perfect time to run smooth.

He cruised to an 11 1/2-length victory, earning high praise from jockey Jon Court.

“I wasn’t contested on the front end, so I was able to dictate the pace the way I wanted,” Court told USA today. “He’s really progressed. It’s just a matter of how he progresses forward.”


About Tennessee Leduc

Born in Summersville Kentucky, Tennessee is an impassioned fan of horse racing, women, civilized debauchery, and... mint juleps. He writes, he reads, he listens, but above all he experiences the world he lives in.

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