(Dennis’ Moment and owner Dennis Albaugh / Photos by Holly M. Smith)
From the very start, trainer Dale Romans believed that he had something special in Dennis’ Moment. Always.
Before the colt ever ran his first race, Romans — never the shy or unassuming type — raved about the talent. About the natural speed. About the maturity and level headed approach to galloping, racing, jogging, resting. About everything.
And, so did many of us. (Blush). For both friends and fans, we thought this may be the horse to finally give Romans — the Louisville native and the winningest trainer in the history of Churchill Downs (until this Spring) his first Kentucky Derby winner. We thought that this could be “The One.” The “Great One.”
“I think I have a horse in the barn right now that could be a great one,” said Romans, back in the Spring of 2019 and before the colt had ever raced. “He is named after Dennis’ Albuagh and his name is Dennis’ Moment. If I don’t miss my guess, I think he has a chance to give us all a few special moments in the future.”
And, for awhile, we had reason and reasons to get excited.
Despite the fact that jockey Robby Albarado fell off in the first career start, Dennis’ Moment managed to stay afoot (somehow) and still ran good enough to “win” (amazingly). Wow.
The second career start, Dennis’ officially broke the maiden at Ellis Park — by a whopping 191/4 lengths. Wow II.
The third start was his first around two turns, and the world-famous Irad Ortiz, Jr. came in for the ride. Surely, something was up. Right?
It was. Dennis’ Moment captured the G3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs, in hand, and impressively. Wow III.
But something not-so-funny happened on the way to stardom and to the 2020 Kentucky Derby and Romans’ dance with destiny.
Horse racing happened.
First, Dennis’ Moment stumbled so badly at the start of the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile that he nearly unseated Ortiz and nearly unsettled the stomachs of many. As soon as the gate opened, Dennis’ didn’t dash. But all chances did.
Then, to start the New Year, 2020 hit. Again. In late February, Dennis’ Moment ran a disappointing and unaccounted for 10th in the G2 Fountain of Youth.
Ete Indian won that day by an impressive 81/2 lengths and set sail on his version of the “Road to the Delayed Kentucky Derby” — which will be held on the first Saturday in September, now.
Dennis’ Moment — beaten some 26 lengths — set sail for Kentucky. And, soon, to a team of veterinarian experts for a full exam. Then, ultimately, to the farm for a little rest and relaxation.
We couldn’t believe it.
The unbelievable had happened to what we hoped would be our “Unbelievable Horse.”
Yet, we are taught at an early age that time will heal all wounds. So, Dennis’ Moment got some time. His time.
This week, Brad Stephens — with HorseRacingNation.com — reported that the colt had returned to Churchill Downs and the barn of Romans.
In a story published on the blog’s website, Stephens quoted Jason Loutsch, the racing manager for the Albaugh Family:
“We’re just taking it slow,” Loutsch said to Stephens. “Obviously when we decided to take him off the trail, we just gave him a little time. We’re not going to rush him.
“We’re really not pointing him toward anything. We’ll make sure he’s 100 percent before we really get serious with him. But we’re just happy to have him back at the barn.”
Today, “The Pressbox” caught up with Romans. We exchanged a few text messages. You could hear the smile all the way through the phone.
“How is Dennis’?” I asked.
Quickly, the response bar bounced, and the text soon followed:
“He just started tack walking and looks great,” Romans wrote.
“You will win a G1 with him…or several,” the text read.
The reply was from a man of faith:
“Very possible,” Romans wrote. Followed by “!!!”
It may take the colt several months to settle in; return to jogging and then galloping. May take awhile longer to put in the breezes and the miles. It may take until 2020 until we see the colt in a race again.
“We’ll hopefully be pointing toward something exciting down at Gulfstream,” Loutsch said in the interview with Stephens.
But it doesn’t really matter when Dennis’ Moment returns. It is “how,” and for that we have hope.
Hope that we can believe in, again.