03/23/2007 11:00PM

Maiden grad Duveen takes graded stakes

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Duveen came into Saturday's $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park still eligible for his entry-level allowance condition. He came out a graded stakes winner after outgaming 9-5 favorite Soldier's Dancer in the final strides to post a nose decision in the Grade 3 turf race.

Duveen ($7.60), a son of Horse Chestnut, entered the 1 1/8-mile Palm Beach off a 4 1/4-length maiden win on the turf five weeks earlier. He appeared overmatched going up against more seasoned stakes winners Soldier's Dancer and Storm in May, but his improving form appealed to the bettors, who made Duveen the 5-2 second choice in the wagering.

Storm in May, stretching out and returning to the turf off an eventful trip in the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes, set the pace over a "good" course while being stalked by Brainy Benny. Jockey Mark Guidry tucked Duveen in behind the early leaders to save valuable ground that ultimately proved to be the difference.

Storm in May was put to a drive around the second turn but still held a short advantage entering the stretch. Soldier's Dancer unleashed his rally exiting the backstretch, circling five wide into the stretch to eventually engage for command approaching the eighth pole. All the while, Duveen remained within striking distance while hugging the hedge. He slipped inside the tiring Storm in May at midstretch, then outfinished Soldier's Dancer in the final yards.

"He's been very impressive and a completely different horse since we put him on the grass," said Dale Romans, who trains Duveen for the Andrew Farm. "Even though he was eligible for his first-level allowance condition, we thought he was ready to take the step up to stakes company."

Romans was uncertain where Duveen might run next but said the Crown Royal Turf at Churchill Downs on May 4 could be a possibility.