The Derby Trail heats up with four graded stakes this weekend—Tampa Bay Derby (G2), San Felipe (G2), Swale (G3), and Palm Beach (G3). All but one of these will run on Saturday and all but one is getting much of the racing industry’s press. The Grade 3 $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes will run Sunday at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida where Donegal Racing’s Dullahan will make his sophomore debut for Louisville-based trainer Dale Romans. The 1 1/8 mile race will be run on the turf.
The half-brother to 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, finished fourth in his last start, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November at Churchill Downs. Since that performance, Dullahan’s debut has been the most anticipated of all Derby nominees in Romans’ barn.
“His race in the Breeders' Cup was sneaky good,” said Romans earlier this week on a national conference call. “I don't know if people picked up on how good it was. I mean he got really squeezed. He was shut off in the first turn, was all the way back to last, and showed a big run down the lane on the dirt.”
Prior to that race, Dullahan won the Grade 1 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity over Keeneland’s Polytrack where he beat out Tampa Bay Derby contender Take Charge Indy and Swale contender Motor City. This after a third place finish in the Grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes on the grass at Saratoga. Romans has already expressed plans to only run Dullahan twice before the Derby—in Sunday’s race on the turf and back to the Polytrack at Keeneland for the Grade 2 Toyota Bluegrass Stakes (April 14).
“I thought the race at Churchill was maybe his best race that he's run, and I think he's—you know—the grass and the synthetic, we know he likes them both, and they're going to be easier on him as stepping stones to get to the Derby, and that's why—another reason for taking those steps,” said Romans. “But I think in the long run, the dirt is going to be his surface.”
Joining Dullahan in the short field of six is Team Valor International’s Howe Great. The Graham Motion runner has won his last three races, including Gulfstream Park’s Kitten’s Joy Stakes January 21. This will be the colt’s first opportunity to pick up the graded earnings needed to put him in contention for the Derby.
The remainder of the field includes Scorcher, Argentine Tango, Coalport, and Csaba. The race is the seventh on an 11-race card with a scheduled post time of 4:05 p.m. The race can be seen on HRTV and TVG.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby