02/21/2004 1:00AM

Kitten's Joy puts fears to rest

Kitten's Joy, Jerry Bailey up, stayed unbeaten in four turf starts by winning Saturday's Palm Beach.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The most anxious moments for the connections of Kitten's Joy came before the running of Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 at Gulfstream Park.

Kitten's Joy, the 3-5 favorite, got a bit hot in the paddock and again during the post parade, leading jockey Jerry Bailey to wonder how much horse he would have in the race.

The answer was plenty, as Kitten's Joy exploded when swung off the hedge by Bailey turning for home and drew off to a convincing 1 3/4-length victory in the Palm Beach. Kitten's Joy is now undefeated in four turf starts.

Prince Arch, a 37-1 longshot, got up to be second by a neck over Pa Pa Da.

Bailey's concerns didn't last long, as Kitten's Joy broke alertly from his rail post, settled comfortably behind horses down the backstretch, and kicked home smartly in the stretch. Kitten's Joy, a son of El Prado owned and bred by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trained by Dale Romans, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.76 over a firm turf. He returned $3.20

"He got really, really wound up before the race, which is usually not a good sign,'' said Bailey, who won this race for the third straight year. "But he broke nice, put himself in position, and settled nice for me, which allowed him to have a good enough finish.''

Kitten's Joy added the Palm Beach to his victory in the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby at Calder.

"I think he's starting to figure the game out,'' Romans said. "He knew why he was here today which was why he was on edge a little bit. That was a big kick; I was very impressed. I asked Jerry if it was him, or if the horses were quitting in front of him because it looked like he exploded to me when he got clear. [Bailey] said he thought it was him kicking.''

Romans said his two objectives for Kitten's Joy this spring and summer are the Crown Royal American Turf at Churchill Downs on April 30 and the Grade 1, $400,000 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park on Aug. 14.