03/21/2007 11:00PM

Derby chance for Storm in May

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes on the turf has rarely if ever been thought of as a Kentucky Derby prep. But it could be this season if things go well for trainer Bill Kaplan and his versatile 3-year-old Storm in May.

Storm in May and his fellow Calder-based rival Soldier's Dancer stand out in a field of seven horses entered for Saturday's Palm Beach Stakes, which, because of its Grade 3 status, could provide the winner with enough earnings to qualify for a start in the 2007 Kentucky Derby.

Storm in May has earned over $250,000, though most of it came in his victory in the ungraded Sunshine Millions Dash. Storm in May's only graded earnings came in his third-place finish behind the winning Soldier's Dancer in Calder's Tropical Park Derby on New Year's Day.

"If he wins this race I could consider the Derby, although I might want to try him in another Derby prep like the Blue Grass just to make sure," said Kaplan, who won the 2000 Palm Beach with Mr. Livingston.

Storm in May has finished worse than third just once in 11 starts. His only poor performance came in his last start, when he finished sixth after being forced to take up sharply while between horses approaching the quarter pole of the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes.

"He didn't just check, that was a stand-up-in-the-saddle-and-check in the Hutcheson," said Kaplan. "He dropped back almost to last, but to his credit came on again down the stretch."

Storm in May finished behind Soldier's Dancer in the Kris S and Tropical Derby.

"He was right behind Soldier's Dancer in each of their last two races," said Kaplan. "And he had excuses, too. Both times he got to the lead, got brushed, backed up and came on again."

Soldier's Dancer has also won on dirt and turf, but will likely remain on grass and has no Kentucky Derby aspirations, according to his trainer, Dave Vivian. A gelded son of Lost Soldier, Soldier's Dancer added the Tropical Park Derby to his earlier, one-sided victory in the Appleton Stakes at Calder. He finished a troubled fourth after checking on the final turn of the Hallandale Beach Stakes here last month.

One of the Best ran a non-threatening fifth in the Hallandale Beach, and is the only other member of the field to have more than a maiden win.