ELMONT, N.Y. — A pair of Hall of Fame jockeys were just about nose to nose as their horses hit the middle of the final turn of the Belmont Stakes.
Gary Stevens, aboard Preakness winner Oxbow, was going to relinquish the lead to hard-charging Palice Malice, and he knew it. He glanced over to his right, looked at good friend Mike Smith and told him: "You go on with him, big boy, you're moving better than me."
Palice Malice seized the lead with a quarter-mile to go Saturday in the final leg of the Triple Crown and ran off to a 31/4-length victory over Oxbow at Belmont Park, with Kentucky Derby winner Orb another 13/4 lengths back in third.
"Mike rode a superb race," Stevens said. "Midway around the turn, I said, 'Well, maybe.' But I have ridden long enough to know that (Oxbow) was going to walk home. To finish second, I am really surprised."
Palice Malice, who went into the race with one win in seven starts, vindicated trainer Todd Pletcher's support of the colt despite a 12th-place finish in the Derby.
"It's huge. It's huge," Pletcher said about his second Belmont win. "We always felt like he had a big one in him. We were just waiting for it to finally develop."
Palace Malice, who skipped the Preakness, covered the 11/2 miles in a slow 2 minutes, 30.70 seconds on a fast track after a 24-hour downpour.
For the second time during this Triple Crown run, Pletcher sent out five horses. He came up short in the Derby five weeks ago, skipped the Preakness and regrouped.
This is the fourth time in five years each Triple Crown race was won by a different horse.