02/19/2004 12:00AM

Perfect grass record on the line


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The breeding suggested Kitten's Joy would be better on turf. A midsummer's morning breeze last August at Saratoga confirmed it.

"He showed it the first time we breezed him on it at Saratoga; he was a different horse on grass," trainer Dale Romans said.

Indeed, he has been. After two losses on dirt to begin his career, Kitten's Joy is 3 for 3 on turf, including a victory in the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby on New Year's Day. Saturday, Kitten's Joy will head a Ken and Sarah Ramsey-owned entry in a full field of 3-year-olds in the Grade 3, $100,000 at 1 1/8 miles over the Gulfstream Park turf.

The Palm Beach drew an overflow field of 16, including two horses entered to run if the race is run on dirt. Dry conditions are expected on Saturday. Twelve starters will be permitted on turf.

Kitten's Joy will break from the rail under Jerry Bailey, who has won the last two runnings of this race, including last year's edition with the Ramsey's Nothing to Lose. Bailey rode Kitten's Joy to a 4 1/2-length victory in the Tropical Park Derby.

"I thought it was a big race for him," Romans said. "I though it'd be a tough race, but he just kicked away from them the last eighth like it was nothing. I was very impressed."

Kitten's Joy will be coupled with Master William, who won a restricted stakes at Woodbine as a maiden last October. Master William has not run since November, but his trainer, Michael Dickinson, is legendary winning stakes off prolonged layoffs.

Commendation may have the best chance at knocking off the entry. Commendation encountered trouble when beaten six lengths by Kitten's Joy in the Tropical Park Derby, but he did win a turf stakes at Keeneland last fall. John Velazquez rides from post 2.

Though he has run well on dirt, Mustanfar is better bred for turf and makes his debut on that surface in this spot. West Virginia, third behind Read the Footnotes and Master David in last fall's Remsen, also tries turf for the first time for Todd Pletcher.

Prince Arch and Pa Pa Da finished first and third, respectively, in an entry-level allowance race over this course on Jan. 17. Gin Rummy Champ and Gold Shield have both won their last two turf starts and should get in from the also-eligible list with the scratches of main-track only entrants Tap Day and Tales of Glory.