HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA., March 11, 2012—They held a Kentucky Derby prep race here yesterday for turf horses, and it worked out very well. Maybe.

The pre-race Palm Beach Stakes storyline was all about Dullahan, whose trainer, Dale Romans, announced to the world that he was taking the Paddy o’ Prado path to Louisville, i.e., from here to the Blue Grass to the Derby.
The question of a Derby Redux looms.
Photo by: Toni Pricci
The question of a Derby Redux looms.
So far, so good, but the story doesn’t end there.

Don’t be shocked if Howe Great, by Japan from South Africa, finds himself in a Grade 1 mile and a quarter without any water on the first Saturday in May.

“How about that?” was trainer Graham Motion’s reply when his horse’s pedigree was posited in the winner’s circle after Howe Great cut the corner beneath John Velazquez to win the Grade 3 nine furlongs by a length over season debuting Dullahan.

It was another 2-3/4 lengths back to late rally show finisher Csaba in a strongly run 1:46.56, the turf rails set 84 feet from the inside hedge.

Dullahan, meanwhile, got all he needed out of his strong placing, Kent Desormeaux asking him with a 4-wide rally leaving the five-sixteenths pole but the ground loss and the winner’s turn of foot was too much to overcome.

“I’m very pleased,” said trainer Dale Romans. “I thought that was a perfect race for him in his comeback. He finished good…we just wanted to see him finish good at the end. We’ll go from here to the Blue Grass.”

When he does, Howe Great will be waiting. “We talked about the Blue Grass before this race,”said Motion. And, might you pull an Animal Kingdom with him, he was asked. “You never know,” smiling when he said it.”

There was confirmation that a Derby run could be a possibility for Howe Great. “If I owned him by myself he would see nothing but the turf,” said Barry Irwin, the man who bred the colt, “but I have to give my partners a chance to look at something else.”

Photo by: Toni Pricci
''I'm very pleased...a perfect race in his comback,'' said Dale Romans
Is he of that quality, Derby quality? “He’s a very classy, straight-forward horse,” said Motion “If only they were all like him.”

Howe Great has won three straight after finishing second in his career debut going seven-eighths on the dirt at Parx, racing on or near the lead in all four starts. He won the Kittens Joy prepping for this that way and improved his Gulfstream turf record to 3-for-3 in the Palm Beach.

The colt, by Japanese stud and son of Sunday Silence, Hat Trick, from the South African mare, Ginger Sea, was bet to 7-10 favoritism over the well regarded Dullahan because he figured to be on a loose, easy lead. But it was the 37-1 Scorcher who set the pace, who eventually paid the price, finishing last.

“He’s tractable and very sensible, not speed crazy at all,” Motion said of the winner. “I’ve been surprised he’s been on the lead.”
Irwin's breeding -- a formula for success
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Irwin's breeding -- a formula for success
“Nothing bothers him,” Irwin said. “He cuts that corner just like a bullring horse.”

A key factor to his success? “His father and mother were well balanced, athletic horses,” said the man who put the mating together. And was there something in their bloodlines that matched up, too?

“Well, I’ve got my little theories, so I’ll just keep that to myself. The old time guys used to breed their own horses, now most people buy good horses at the sales and I don’t like what they do with these horses at the sales.”

So Irwin has taken those matters into his own hands and has enjoyed tremendous success as the President of the Team Valor racing partnership, breeders of 2012 Derby winner Animal Kingdom.
Peter Bradley (r) and Tyler Laymon (l) lead Dayatthespa into the circle.
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Peter Bradley (r) and Tyler Laymon (l) lead Dayatthespa into the circle.
At the moment, Howe Great is on a similar path, now going from turf to Keeneland’s Polytrack for the Blue Grass, the same surface they have at Turfway Park, where Animal Kingdom had his final Derby prep.

The only difference is that last year’s Derby winner never had run on dirt. This colt broke his maiden on dirt in his second start.

Howe Great? Exactly.

Get With the Program, New York-breds

Those were the words of Jose Santos in a horseback interview immediately after Funny Cide had shocked the Derby world nine years ago.
Owner Steve Layman of Saratoga enjoying a Dayatgulfstreampark
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Owner Steve Laymon of Saratoga enjoying a Dayatgulfstreampark
Well, it’s not quite the same thing, being a filly race and all, the G3 Herecomesthebride for 3-year-olds on the turf at 9 furlongs, but the message is the same: Dayatthespa is not your run-of-the-mill non-Kentucky or Florida bred race horse.

“She may not see New York-bred company for a while,” said part owner Peter Bradley, not having to note that they run very few New York-bred races in Lexington.

Stalking the pace throughout beneath Gulfstream’s leading rider Javier Castellano, Dayatthespa took control entering the stretch and held off the solid late rally of Regalo Mio by a neck. It was 3-1/4 lengths back to Almuaafa, who subsequently was disqualified and placed sixth.

“After the Sweetest Chant, we considered not going in this race because of the distance [an additional eighth of a mile]," said part owner Steve Laymon. “But she loves hard turf and we decided to run.”
Trinniberg & Willie Martinez take aim at the finish line.
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Javier Castellano has had many reasons to smile at Gulfstream this season.
Good decision, as it was highly likely that the ground enabled her to keep her stride when Regalo Mia looked like she had her in midstretch. “It was her first time going a mile and an eighth and she did it beautifully,” Castellano said. “She saw the other horse coming and just ran on that much more.”

That she did. While Howe Great needed only 1:46.56 to get the distance, Dayatthespa required a bit more—1:47.30. But her final furlong of :11.56 was a tad better than the colt’s :11.74, significant enough at this distance.

Bradley pointed out there are two races for her at Keeneland, which means she will go in the $150,000 G2 Beaumont at 7 furlongs and 184’ on Keeneland’s Polytrack or await the $100,000 G3 Appalachian four days later on April 19 at a mile on the turf.

“You might see her on the Polytrack,” said Bradley.