03/01/2013 12:48PM

Gulfstream Park: Rydilluc getting 'acid test' in Palm Beach

Tom Keyser
Rydilluc launched his 3-year-old campaign with a 5 3/4-length optional-claiming win on Jan. 5.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Although Sunday’s $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park will not have an impact on determining eligibility for this year’s Kentucky Derby field, as has been the case in the past, that’s not to say the Grade 3 turf fixture won’t ultimately prove to be a Derby prep for one or more of its 11 prospective starters.

Trainer Gary Contessa said that if his up-and-coming turf prospect Rydilluc runs another big race in the 1 1/8-mile Palm Beach, he could come back in either the Spiral or Blue Grass. Dale Romans is also thinking Blue Grass with Dewey Square, if he can rebound from an extremely disappointing performance earlier this winter in the Grade 3 Holy Bull.

Rydilluc has posted a pair of very impressive one-sided victories since Contessa switched him to turf for his 2-year-old finale. Rydilluc, a son of Medaglia d’Oro, withstood an early pace battle to win a maiden race by 4 1/2 lengths at Aqueduct in November, then launched his 3-year-old campaign with a similarly easy 5 3/4-length optional-claiming win here on Jan. 5.

“The horse certainly looks like he can be something exciting, but this will be the acid test for him on Sunday,” said Contessa. “I’ve been in the game a long time, and an impressive one other-than win doesn’t always mean you’ve got a graded stakes horse. But he’s been training great, his numbers are competitive with the rest of the field, and I don’t think the added distance should be a problem, although sometimes a mile and one-eighth will separate the men from the boys.”

Contessa is hoping Rydilluc can sit a trip similar to his last start, just off the pace, under regular rider Edgar Prado.

“He’s really a push-button type of horse, and on paper it looks like he should be in the second tier, just behind the leaders once again,” said Contessa. “If this horse runs well on Sunday and warrants another step forward, there’s no doubt in my mind I’m going to go to either the Spiral or Blue Grass. But he’s got to get past this test first.”

Romans has already successfully used the Palm Beach as a stepping-stone to the Blue Grass and Derby with Paddy O’Prado and again last year with Dullahan. Paddy O’Prado won the 2010 Palm Beach and was second in the Blue Grass before finishing a troubled third later that spring in the Derby. Dullahan finished second behind Howe Great in the Palm Beach, won the Blue Grass, then was third in the Derby.

Dewey Square is coming off a poor performance in the Holy Bull, finishing a distant seventh after getting shuffled around a bit on the opening bend in his first start at 3.

“We’ve already had some luck going this route on a couple of occasions with our Derby horses, so why not try it again,” said Romans. “I’m just putting a line through his last race. He broke from a bad post, and once he started getting dirt in his face, he just took himself out of the race early. He’s got a little turf pedigree, and if he takes to the grass in the afternoon like he’s worked over it in the morning, he’s going to run big.”

Charming Kitten, one of four Kentucky Derby nominees in the field, will be favored to add the Palm Beach to his one-length victory on Jan. 20 in the Kitten’s Joy. Trained by Todd Pletcher for owner-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Charming Kitten also finished a wide-running second as the even-money favorite earlier this meet in the Dania Beach.

Quinzieme Monarque returns to the grass for his 3-year-old debut, having finished a distant fourth in Aqueduct’s Grade 2 Remsen in his 2-year-old finale.

Holiday Star brings a two-race winning streak into the Palm Beach that includes an optional claiming victory in his first start with Lasix on Jan. 26.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]