The Breeders’ Cup Forum: Trainer Dale Romans
Dale Romans, a 44-year-old second-generation horseman and a native of Louisville, Ky., is the trainer of Donegal Racing’s Dullahan, who will try to prevent I’ll Have Another from becoming horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner this Saturday in the Belmont Stakes. The son of Even the Score finished third in the Kentucky Derby but then skipped the Preakness to point for the mile and a half Belmont. Dullahan’s preparation for the race included a one-mile workout on May 26 at Churchill Downs – a work relatively few trainers give their horses in the current era – followed by a very fast :45.97 half-mile breeze at Belmont Park earlier this week.
Romans captured his first American Classic last year when Shackleford won the Preakness. Now four years old, Shackleford is back in top form in 2012, recently winning the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park.
Are you new school or old school as a trainer?
I think a mixture , borderline on old school. When I was a kid I was still at the end of old school, but I had to adapt a little bit.
What defines that?
I think old school is probably training a horse a little bit harder. The old school guys did less vet work, and had less concern about the numbers: speed figures and their personal numbers like win percentages.
Let’s talk about Dullahan. Why did you ship to Belmont Park for that last workout instead of keeping him at Churchill Downs?
I had the time. I have a barn at Belmont and it wasn’t that much of a logistical nightmare. It can’t do anything but help to get a feel for the surface and train on the mile and a half track. I wanted him to get used to the surroundings, but they’re changing all that with the detention barn.
What made you put Dullahan on the turf last summer?
One of the main reasons is that it was the first opportunity to go two turns. I thought he would handle the turf fine, with Smart Strike on the bottom side. I expected he would run well on it, but the main thing is it would give us that two-turn opportunity. I knew his strength was going to be his stamina.
He’s never shown speed in a race. Is there any reason to expect to see Dullahan closer to the pace in the Belmont?
Only if they are going an unrealistically slow pace. He’ll sit up close. He’ll do whatever we want him to do, but I think he’s better as a one-run type of horse.
You’ve spoken out against the New York State Racing and Wagering Board security rules imposed for the Belmont Stakes. What is your biggest objection to them?
There are several. First, I don’t think it was thought through very well, otherwise you wouldn’t displace a trainer from his barn. They kicked out Billy Badgett. It’s a logistical nightmare for trainers, especially if you have a full barn like I do with the grooms and exercise riders in one place and Dullahan somewhere else.
Everyone knows we can do it, but it’s not the ideal situation to displace a horse. If a horse gets loose on the track, he’ll run back to his stall. I think they could have accomplished the same goal with easier methods, putting 24-hour security on a horse like they do for the Kentucky Derby.
Taking drastic measures like this at the last minute causes poor perceptions. I think it creates something that isn’t there. It makes people think there is a lot more crookedness than there is. They could have quietly put guards on the horses and accomplishment the same thing.
When they came up with this, no one ever talked to me personally. I heard about it from the press. Stewards came by and left a letter in my barn. I’m lucky I found it.
Are you happy that former President Bill Clinton has picked Dullahan as his upset special over I’ll Have Another?
I am happy. I’m a big Bill Clinton fan so I’m glad he likes my horse.
You know that Jerry Crawford, the managing partner of Donegal Racing that owns Dullahan, is a big Democratic operative in Iowa. You ever talk politics with him?
All the time. I’m a registered Democrat, though I’m more in the middle than anything We talk politics a lot.
You’ve been an outspoken advocate for race-day use of Lasix. Have you convinced Mr. Crawford the Breeders’ Cup board of directors is wrong in trying to eliminate Lasix from its championship races?
The best thing about our relationship is we can talk about it openly. Whether he thinks I’m wrong, we can discuss it, and we talk about it quite a bit, as we do with all topics in racing. Besides being an owner, Jerry is also my good friend. I never, never have to worry about dancing around an issue with him. We can talk about anything, and we do.