It's good to see a major runner come back to the races for once instead of being retired to stud with an injury that isn't necessarily career-ending. And, truth be told, if he can sweep them -- or just the last four of the five -- he'll have as good a shot at Horse of the Year as anyone. Four straight Grade I wins with the last in the Breeders' Cup Classic (USA-I) would weigh heavily with a lot of folks. No one will be able to accuse his connections of running from anything, either; with his schedule out this early, it's a case of "come and get me -- if you dare."
But just five races? I know that sort of campaign isn't uncommon in Europe, but the style of training and racing is different there and horses often prepare for major events with private trials that serve the purpose of prep races. A five-race schedule sure doesn't suggest soundness and durability by American standards. It's also perilously easy to blow a hole in. Horses aren't machines, and as trainers of the two-Derby-prep school know, once you miss one target race, the whole schedule is thrown off. Too often it becomes a rush to catch up that benefits no one.
I suspect that in Palace Malice's case, a couple of "just in case" alternate races have been penciled in, but I suspect even more that it would take only one real clunker to have the horse retired for good. I hope it will be otherwise, because with Shared Belief, California Chrome, Bayern, Tonalist and other good 3-year-olds looking as though they'll be sticking around for another year, Palace Malice could sure add some spice to an already-intriguing handicap division. But another injury to Palace Malice, a couple of newly turned 4-year-olds getting hurt, and the older males could go from "Yee-haw!" to "yawn" as fast as this year's bunch did.