BLUEGRASS GIVES ROMANS A REAL SHOT IN KENTUCKY DERBY
The everyday person normally associates the sport of Thoroughbred racing with one thing, the Kentucky Derby. For 141 years this race has been run for three-year olds and everybody on earth wants a piece of Derby pie. So, naturally speaking, a hometown guy salivates at the thought of seeing his horse wear that coveted blanket of roses. Getting a runner in the gate means you have an opportunity, but what he really wants is a live wire with a real chance. For one guy in particular, the Bluegrass Stakes may have given him exactly that shot.
Born in Louisville and raised at Churchill Downs by his horse-training father, Dale Romans has spent a many days beneath the twin spires. Taking out a training license at the age of 18, this winner of over 1,800 races has seen many highlights since his first victory in 1987. Never afraid to give his horse a shot at glory, the confident conditioner has orchestrated upsets in big races like the 2006 Dubai World Cup (Roses in May), 2011 Preakness (Shackleford), 2011 Breeders’ Cup Mile (Court Vision), 2012 Pacific Classic (Dullahan), and 2015 Traver’s Stakes (Keen Ice). The perceived biggest prize in the sport however, has eluded him.
Six times Romans has sent a horse into the gates on the first Saturday in May, but the best he could come out with were third place finishes in 2010 (Paddy O’Prado) and 2012 (Dullahan). As he prepares to send Brody’s Cause to the 142nd renewal of the Kentucky Derby, Romans has every reason to believe this can be his year.
“I think Brody is no doubt the most proto-typical Derby horse I have had,” says Romans. “He likes distance and he loves the Churchill dirt. Paddy O’Prado didn’t know whether he liked dirt or grass and Dullahan was best on synthetic tracks. Brody’s Cause was made for races like the Kentucky Derby.”
Brody backed up his trainer with an impressive win in the Bluegrass Stakes on April 9 at Keeneland Race Course. Running near the back of the pack along the back stretch after solid opening fractions (23.44 opening quarter, 46.75 half mile), this son of Giant’s Causeway made a bold move around the far turn and launched an all-out assault on the leaders. Rolling down the center of the track, Brody took the lead at the sixteenth pole and powered his way to a 1 ¾ length win. Covering the mile and eighth distance in 150.20, this Kentucky-bred colt picked up his third career win in six lifetime starts and earned his first trip to the winner’s circle as a three-year old.
The win was important for several reasons. First and foremost it guarantees Brody a spot in the Kentucky Derby. With only 14 points in the qualifying system for the Derby, the Cause needed to run big as only one previous start this year had netted nothing (10th place finish in Tampa Derby). All part of the master plan designed by Romans, Brody rewarded his team for the faith they had shown in him.
“Coming into the year we wanted his third start of the year to be in the Kentucky Derby,” says Romans. “Having a horse ready to run for the Triple Crown in his fifth start at Belmont Park is something we thought about too. But right now, we are worried about one thing and that is the Kentucky Derby.”
The run from back in the pack on April 9 is also encouraging. A hot early pace is normal in the Kentucky Derby and a fresh closer like Brody gives his conditioner even more reason for confidence.
“Our plan all along was to have a fresh horse for the Bluegrass and he ran really big. We have not squeezed the lemon on him yet and that is why we developed the plan to keep him fresh,” says Romans. “He trained like a monster coming into the Bluegrass and he should be ready to roll again in about four weeks. But you better believe there won’t be a drop of lemonade left after the Kentucky Derby if that’s what it takes.”
Kentucky Derby 142 is slated for May 7 at Churchill Downs.