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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Romans Sleeps A Little, Ponders Next Move

5/22/2011

Trainer Dale Romans returned to the Preakness Stakes Barn shortly after 7:30 a.m. Sunday with trays of Starbucks drinks for media members who arrived for updates on his impressive winner of the Middle Jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.

It was a generous gesture by the Kentucky-based trainer and a way to share some of a $50,000 bonus he collected from MI Developments’ Preakness 5.5 Saturday. Owners Michael Lauffer and William Cubbedge will share a $500,000 bonus on top of the $600,000 winner’s purse, courtesy of the MID’s incentive program that rewarded the Preakness winner’s participation in the major 3-year-old stakes at Gulfstream Park, a sister track to Pimlico.

“I went to bed for an hour or two,” Romans said looking a bit bedraggled behind sunglasses on a sunny Sunday morning. “I don’t know how Todd Pletcher and Wayne Lukas do it. They look so pristine all the time. I walk out of my house to my car and I’m sweating and wrinkled and my shirttail’s out.  Dan Bork at Churchill Downs said I was the best at making an expensive suit look cheap.”

Shackleford certainly made Romans look pretty good on Saturday, bouncing back in two weeks from his fourth-place finish in the Derby to turn the tables on Animal Kingdom by a half-length.

“He was just so game,” Romans said of the son of Forestry bred by Lauffer, who was a part-owner of Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra before her sale to the late Jess Jackson. “I mean, he ran fast early and kept right on going. Animal Kingdom was running, but at no point did it look like he was going to get to him, in my opinion.  When I saw 10 jumps before the wire that we weren’t going to get beat, it was just an unbelievable rush.”

Shackleford went back to Kentucky for some rest and possible preparation for the Belmont Stakes on June 11.  Romans said he is staying in Baltimore for the Mid-Atlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale at Timonium Monday and Tuesday.

“I thought last night of going onto Belmont right away,” said the 44-year-old Louisville native. “But I wanted to send him back to Kentucky so we’ll get him with his regular team, go over him, watch him train a couple days and then make the decision. Ultimately it will be Mike’s (Lauffer) call, but he’ll let me have a lot of input, I’m sure. If he trains like he did going into the Derby, I don’t know why we would pass. I think it’s better than 50-50.”

The Preakness was the seventh career start for Shackleford, but his first victory since an allowance score at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 5, the first time Jesus Castanon rode the colt. His Preakness payoff of $27.20 was the ninth-highest in 136 runnings.

“Jesus has done a super job with this horse all year ever since we put him on him in the allowance race,” Romans said. “This horse has just been improving. Mentally he was a little immature. In the Florida Derby he was kind of looking around when he got to the lead. In the Kentucky Derby it looked like he had finally kind of put it all together the last two weeks. It was almost like he figured out what this was about.”

Romans said it would be good for racing to see a rivalry develop with the likes of Animal Kingdom and some of the other top sophomores, who to this point have been somewhat maligned by the mainstream racing media.        

“I think these 3-year-olds are a lot better than people are giving them credit for, even without Uncle Mo (sidelined with a gastrointestinal disorder),” he said. “When he gets back in the picture, I think this is a good group of horses.”

Romans said he had already received numerous phone calls and some 250 text messages of congratulations by late Saturday night. He said he only responded to one call from Frank Taylor of Taylor Made Farms, where Forestry stands at stud.

“That was a phone call that I answered because Frank Taylor told me in Florida if I won a Grade 1 with a Forestry, I had free meals for life at Malone’s (in Lexington, Ky.),” said Romans, the most robust of this year’s Preakness trainers.  “That was the one call I did answer to remind him of what he said.”

--Pimlico release

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