Paddy O'Prado was still a maiden when he won the 2010 Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT), so the circumstances surrounding him and the more accomplished Dullahan are a little bit different. Nevertheless, owner Jerry Crawford and trainer Dale Romans have chosen to follow similar a path with their newest Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) hopeful, who will lead a field of six in the March 11 turf race at Gulfstream Park.
Dullahan will make his season debut in the 1 1/8-mile race worth $150,000, and will likely be favored as he begins his Triple Crown quest. The son of Even the Score completed his 2-year-old campaign by running a solid fourth in the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, which came a month after he won the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) on Polytrack at Keeneland. The $240,000 of graded earnings Dullahan earned from that race should be plenty to get him into in the May 5 Kentucky Derby, which is why his connections have decided to start him on turf, which may be his preferred surface.
Romans said the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) April 14 at Keeneland will be next for the chestnut colt, and then hopefully the Derby. Paddy O’Prado finished second in the Blue Grass en route to his third-place finish in the Derby. Romans said that experience helped make his planning with Dullahan a little easier, especially since he has plenty of earnings.
“The (turf/synthetic angle) worked for us with Paddy. It was a little different situation with Paddy; we didn't have a lot of choices,” Romans said. “We were just trying to get earnings. This horse showed he could come off synthetics and run well on the Churchill dirt. He came out of the Futurity and ran pretty good in the Breeders' Cup. It just seems like a sensible thing to do with him."
Romans is happy with how Dullahan has trained this winter at Gulfstream Park and is expecting a big effort off the layoff. He turned in his final breeze March 3 when clocking five furlongs in 1:00 3/5. Kent Desormeaux will keep the mount.
Dullahan was bred in Kentucky by Phil Needham, Judy Needham, and Bena Halecky. He is out of the Smart Strike mare Mining My Own and is a half brother to 2009 Derby winner Mine That Bird.
On paper, the main competition for Dullahan could come from Howe Great, who will also carry top weight of 120 pounds. The son of Hat Trick has won his last three starts, including the Jan. 21 Kitten’s Joy Stakes on the Gulfstream Park turf in his season debut. Trained by Graham Motion for Team Valor International, Howe Great broke his maiden on dirt at Parx Racing last fall and then won a first-level turf allowance race at Gulfstream to end his juvenile season.
Howe Great likes to run on the front end, as he did in all three of his victories. John Velazquez will jump back aboard after Edgar Prado rode him last time. They will break from post 1.
Not likely to take as much money as the two favorites but in with a good chance is Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s homebred Coalport. The son of Kitten's Joy was fourth in the Dec. 18 Dania Beach Stakes most recently, but was beaten less than two lengths after a slow start. As a juvenile, Coalport broke his maiden on the Arlington Park turf and finished a close second in the Bourbon (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland before a poor effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT).
Jullien Leparoux will keep the mount for Wayne Catalano on Coalport, who has turned in some sharp works at Gulfstream this winter.
Calder-based Csaba, also by Kitten’s Joy, will wheel right back after finishing sixth in the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) two weeks ago.
$150,000 Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 7, 4:05 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Howe Great (KY), J R Velazquez, 120, H G Motion
2. Scorcher (KY), J L Castanon, 116, J Garoffalo
3. Dullahan (KY), K J Desormeaux, 120, D L Romans
4. Argentine Tango (FL), E Trujillo, 116 S I Gold
5. Coalport (IL), J R Leparoux, 116, W M Catalano
6. Csaba (KY), P Lopez, 116, P A Gleaves