Dullahan latest entry in Romans’ Kentucky Derby quest

- By Tom Pedulla USA TODAY

LOUISVILLE — Thoroughbr­ed trainer Dale Romans stands inside his office at Barn 4 at Churchill Downs and contemplat­es what winning the Kentucky Derby would mean.

“I was born 3 miles from here,” he said.

The son of the late Jerry Romans, who oversaw the same barn but never sniffed the roses, did not need to say more.

His dream came close enough to reality that he can almost touch it after saddling Paddy O’prado to a third-place finish in 2010 and Shacklefor­d to a fourth-place effort last year.

“It’s everything. It would mean the world to him, and a lot of it is because he’s from here,” said Tammy Fox, Romans’ soul mate for the last 21 years. They have two children: Bailey, 19, and Jacob, 16.

Romans and Fox, who works all of his top horses, are on the Derby trail again with Dullahan, one of the leading contenders in Saturday’s $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky.

Romans says of his last two Derby starters and Dullahan, “They were peaking at the right time, and he seems to be peaking at the right time.”

Fox typically signals that a workout went as planned by giving two thumbs up soon after she pulls up the horse. When Dullahan traveled 5 furlongs in a crackling 572⁄5 seconds Sunday at Keeneland, thumbs would not suffice.

“He got two thumbs up,” Fox said, “and I got goose bumps because of the power I had un- derneath me.”

The son of Even the Score will have to be full of run in the 1|-mile Blue Grass.

The field of 13 is headed by 2-year-old champion and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Hansen. Dullahan was bumped hard at the start of the Juvenile but closed to finish fourth, 6 lengths from the front, for Kent Desormeaux.

“I thought the Breeders’ Cup race was as good a race as he’s ever run,” Romans said.

The chestnut colt’s lone win in seven starts was on Keeneland’s synthetic surface, by threequart­ers of a length in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity on Oct. 8.

“I don’t know that he has a best surface,” Romans said. “I think he can run on anything.”

Romans made numerous breakthrou­ghs in recent years. Tapitsfly supplied his initial Breeders’ Cup win in the Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2009. He won a Triple Crown race when Shacklefor­d took the Preakness.

Remaining is the Derby, and a dream that began 3 miles from the famed twin spires.

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