03/09/2012 2:14PM

Gulfstream Park: Dullahan starts path to Kentucky Derby on turf in Palm Beach Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Dullahan will make his first start since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in Sunday's Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The Florida Derby is not the only important Kentucky Derby prep left on the local racing schedule this winter. The $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes may be carded on the grass, but it could well have Derby implications with both Dullahan and Howe Great among the six 3-year-olds set to go 1 1/8 miles Sunday at Gulfstream Park.

Dullahan is currently listed 10th in Daily Racing Form’s Derby Watch. The son of Even the Score has not started since finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Trainer Dale Romans has planned all along on following the same path that got Paddy O’Prado to the Derby two years earlier, which included a victory in the Palm Beach.

“I think we’re all creatures of habit, and it did work for us with Paddy,” Romans said. “And this is a horse who has proven that he can run on the turf and synthetics.”

Dullahan won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity over the synthetic track at Keeneland as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup and is expected to return to Keeneland for his final Derby prep in the Blue Grass.

“The last couple of years, we’ve been scrambling to get horses into the right races to get enough graded earnings to make the Derby,” Romans said. “We don’t have that kind of pressure with Dullahan. Now, it’s just a matter of keeping him safe and sound and getting in your few races before the big one.”

Dullahan did miss a couple of weeks of training due to a cough earlier this winter, but has been right on schedule over the past several weeks, turning in a series of five-furlong drills that included a bullet in 59.20 seconds on Feb. 25.

Needless to say, nobody will question trainer Graham Motion’s motives when it comes to running a potential Derby contender over the Gulfstream Park turf course. The Palm Beach will mark Howe Great’s third start over local sod. The son of Hat Trick, who like reigning Derby winner Animal Kingdom is owned by Team Valor International, won an entry-level allowance race by 1 1/2 lengths on Dec. 15 before returning to capture the Kitten’s Joy by 2 1/2 lengths on Jan. 21, leading at every call in both victories.

“We think he is a turf horse, although actually he’s accomplished more on dirt than Animal Kingdom had at this time last year,” Motion said. “Obviously, you never say never when it comes to a talented 3-year-old this time of year and the timing of the Blue Grass would be very good, although I don’t want to get ahead of myself, first things first on Sunday.”

Howe Great will break from the rail under John Velazquez and could prove the controlling speed once again in the Palm Beach.

“I think we have an advantage over Dullahan having had a couple of races over the course and with the pace situation, although he doesn’t need to be on the lead by any means,” Motion said. “He’s not a rank horse. He’s very adaptable and sensible.”

Coalport also makes his 3-year-old debut in the Palm Beach, having been away since finishing a late-running fourth in the Dania Beach here Dec. 18. Coalport was second in the Grade 3 Bourbon before finishing a troubled 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf earlier at 2.

Argentine Tango, Scorcher, and Csaba complete the field.

Palm Beach S. (G3), Post Time: 4:05 ET Sunday

Purse: $150,000; 1 1/8 mile (T)





ML Odds


Howe Great

H. Motion

J. Velasquez




J. Garofallo

J. Castanon




D. Romans

K. Desormeaux



Argentine Tango

S. Gold

E. Trujillo




W. Catalano

J. Leparoux




P. Gleaves

P. Lopez