Is This Dennis’ Moment? We Think So & Our Selections for Breeders’ Cup Friday

(Dennis’ Moment / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

Way back in the early Spring, Dale Romans was having a tough time finding the winner’s circle at his hometown track of Churchill Downs. The affable trainer — who has won more races under the Twin Spires than any other horse whisperer in the history of the sport — was struggling with one of his coldest spells.

As in?

Ever.

As my PawPaw would often say: “He couldn’t find his ass with both hands.”

My PawPaw had such a way with words. Few and far between, mind you. But you got the message. Loud and clear.

So, we reached out to our friend, Dale. Wanted to cheer him up. Wish him well. Tell him that all losing streaks come to an end.

Little did we know, though, Dale Romans was just fine. He joked. He laughed. Before you knew it, he was cheering us up. And, making us laugh. And, making us forget the woes of the day. Such is Dale Romans, if you get to know him. Really good guy.

Before we left our “podcast” that day, I asked Dale, as I always do, if he had anything special coming up that we may be able to look for; watch for. In other words, and in racetrack jargon, did he have something we could bet on.

Dale didn’t miss a beat, as he always does.

“I have a horse that has the potential to be the best I have ever trained,” said Dale, at the time. “If he develops like I think he will, he could be something really special. You need to keep an eye out for this one.”

My interested was certainly piqued. “Who? What’s his name? Has he raced yet?”

“He’s a 2-year-old and he is still about a month or so away,” said Dale. “His name is Dennis’ Moment. He’s named after the owner, Mr. Dennis Albaugh. If I don’t miss my guess, we are going to have a lot of good moments with Dennis.”

So far, there have been a few good moments. Today, Dale and Dennis and the entire gang may have another good moment. Another good Big moment. Today, Dale Romans will saddle Dennis’ Moment in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.

Despite the fact that the son of Tiznow will have to break from the #1 stall in the 11/16-mile Stakes, the world of racing has now picked up on what Dale told us many months ago. This one could be a special one.

Today, maybe the world will find out just how special. Today, Dennis’ Moment may have another amazing moment and stamp himself as the early favorite for the 2020 Kentucky Derby.

Despite all the races and Stakes events that Dale Romans has won at Churchill Downs — and there have been many — he has never won the Kentucky Derby. A dream he has chased since coming to the track with his dad as a young boy.

Despite all the races and Stakes that Dennis Albaugh has won across the country — and there have been many — he has never won the Kentucky Derby, either. A dream he and his family have chased since getting into the horse business after falling in love with the sport at their hometown track of Prairie Meadows. A dream they have chased ever since.

Maybe now they can chase together. With a 2YO colt by the name of Dennis’ Moment.

Let the chase begin.

Here’s our look and picks for Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Stakes at Santa Anita:

Juvenile Turf Sprint: 7/9-2/1-10/4-6-5…The first Breeders’ Cup event for the 2019 season will be the 5-furlong grass race for the 2YOs. And, I will go with my first Key Play of the Day — Kimari (7). This is a filly that will gear it up and face the boys in this challenge, but don’t be distracted. That’s no big thing for either the trainer Wesley Ward or this filly. She broke the maiden at first asking back in April at Keeneland over the dirt track by a whopping 15 lengths. She beat the boys that day. After a trip overseas to Royal Ascot, she has come back to win a Stake at Saratoga by 4, and then won the Indian Summer Stakes at KEE on Oct. 6 — against the boys, again. In that one, she was bumped at the start and fell all the way to last in the 9-horse field. A precarious spot, to be sure. Especially when you consider that she has previously run every other race either on or very close to the lead. And, for the vast majority of the time of the 5.5-furlong Indian Summer, Kimari stayed in last. It appeared that both she and her rider, Mike Smith, were truly not interested. Then, it happened. The two of them stepped on the gas. Zoom time. They circled the field and drew off in one of the most impressive performances I have seen all year. Truly amazing. Kimari does have a bad habit of breaking a little slow, and tardy. With the cutback in distance today, that could be an issue. With a packed crowd in the starting gate, that could be a bigger issue. But if she can break just OK? This daughter of Munnings is special. Really special. She may be able to beat herself. But I don’t think the others can. I bet the 7 to win/place and then key the 7 over/under the rest of the numbers listed. More on the 9-2. Less on the 1-10. And, even less on the 4-6-5.

Juvenile Turf: 2-7-12/4-1-5/14-3…This grass event will be contested at the flat, 1-mile distance and it has drawn a large contingency from both the States and across the pond. And, the way the track is configured at Santa Anita, post position does play a prominent role in this event. The issue? There is not a lot of ground between the starting gate and the first turn. So, it is decision time for some of the best horses that have drawn to the outside. Do they go? Gas it up early and often, and try to clear and save some ground? Or do they take back, and reserve the tank for a move later in the proceedings? It will be interesting to watch and see. For me, the best horse in the field may just be Arizona (12). This 2YO son of No Nay Never is trained by the great Aidan O’Brien and will be ridden by the barn’s go-to rider in the Breeders’ Cup — Ryan Moore. In 6 career starts to date, Arizona has a record of 2-2-1, and he ran a huge one to be second in the last start in the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Oct. 12. Has some speed. Has been 7 furlongs. And, has some serious game. But does he have the right starting gate assignment? I think not. A lot to ask to break from that far out and get a good trip. A lot to ask of any horse, but a 2YO shipping in from Europe? A lot. As a result, I will give the edge to Structor (2). This son of Palace Malice cost a whopping $850,000 earlier this year at a 2YO Sale in Florida. All he has done since is break his maiden at Saratoga and then win the G3 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park. Each time, he went 11/16 miles. Plus, he’s trained by Chad Brown — the turf racing guru in North America. But here’s an interesting group of factoids for you to consider these next two days. In his training career, Chad Brown is 93 for 529 when racing in California. That’s a win percentage of 17.58. In Southern California, Brown is 14 for 86 — for a win percentage of 16.28. At Santa Anita? Brown is 7-52. That is 13.46. That is about half of what Brown’s average is for this year — 27.0. Interesting. (Thanks to my great friend Ed DeRosa for his research on my inquiry.) In the meantime, I will also group Andesite (7) into my leading group of contenders here. This one lost to Structor by just a head in the Pilgrim Stakes. And, the cutback from 11/16-miles to the flat mile should help this son of The Factor. Picks up Joel Rosario to ride today, as well. And, at times, that guy can simply be outstanding. I bet the 2-7 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the top 3 numbers over (only) the 4-1-5-14-3 in a smaller version.

Juvenile Fillies: 4-1-6/7/3-9-5…This is a 11/16-mile test over the main dirt track, and I will go with the impressive winner of the G1 Alcibiades Stakes — British Idiom (4) — in this spot. This 2YO daughter of Flashback has been nothing but outstanding in the first two races of the career. Broke the maiden on debut at Saratoga, running off to a 31/2-length win over the runner-up — who came right back to win the next time out. Two months later, British Idiom shows up in Lexington. And, she shows out. Again. She kicked butt and took names, drawing off to win that prestigious event by over 6 lengths. Her trainer knows how to work fillies. He won the Distaff last year with Monomoy Girl. He has the talented Covfefe this year. And, he has British Idiom, too. Don’t forget about this one. Talent. Donna Veloce (1) may be the surprise horse in this field. This daughter of Uncle Mo cost a robust $800,000 to purchase at the Fasig-Tipton March 2YO Sale. All she has done since then is win on debut at Santa Anita by 91/4 lengths. That was on Sept. 28 in a 6.5 furlong event. She has to stretch out today. Granted. Go two turns for the first time. Granted. Face winners for the first time. Granted. But look at this one’s work on Oct. 18 here. And, she has the pedigree to run all day. The barn hits with .18% of those stretching out for the first time. I think she could be a freak. A really good freak. Wicked Whisper (7) comes from the Steve Asmussen barn and is undefeated in 2 career starts to date. She broke the maiden on debut at Saratoga, winning by over 6. Came right back to win the G1 Firzette Stakes at Belmont Park by nearly 3. Has speed to burn. Burn. Burn. The one to catch, for sure. I bet the 4-1 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I will key the 4-1 over/under the rest of the numbers listed in two smaller versions.

Juvenile Fillies Turf: 12-13-7/5-9-3/1-11-4-2-10…This Stakes will be run over the sod, and contested at the 1-mile distance. Again, my top two picks draw a near-impossible starting gate assignment. But…I think these two are such the best in this group that I cast strategy and caution to the winds of Santa Ana and go with Sweet Melania (12) and Selflessly (13). The former is a 2YO daughter of American Pharoah and is trained by Todd Pletcher. This gal has tremendous speed early on and could and should be able to clear early if she can manage a clean break from the gate. Jose Ortiz remains in the saddle, and he has world class ability to coax the best out of them. In 3 races over the grass, this one has only one loss — and it was by a neck to Crystalle (7). On that day, Sweet Melania broke poorly from the outside post and had to rally. She did. Still, nearly won. Talented and versatile. That’s what this race will take. Selflessly (13) comes from the barn of Chad Brown. Despite having extremely wide trips in both career starts to date, this daughter of More Than Ready has proven to be more than good. Likes to close, like most from this barn operation. And, she likes to close in style. She will probably drop back early and come late. Beware. Crystalle (7) was second behind Selflessly the last time out as the beaten favorite. But she went 9-wide in that one and still close furiously to lose by only 3/4-length. Look for more today with a better trip. Don’t be surprised if she is there at the wire. I bet the 12-7 (take note) across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 12-7 over/under the 13-5-9-3-1-11 in two smaller versions.

Juvenile: 1/5-6-7/2-4…The main event for the 2YOs will be the Juvenile, a 11/16-mile test around 2 turns and a major prep for next Spring’s KY Derby and the Triple Crown. We have written a lot in the preface about our pick here — Dennis’ Moment (1). Don’t need to repeat it. The only pause for cause is the rail draw. Not thrilled with that assignment. But this guy is a rare talent. Rare. Talent. They all can lose. Look at his first career start, when the rider fell off when trying to stick Dennis’ through a pin-hole on the rail. But this one shouldn’t lose. He’s the best. Maybe the best in a long, long time. I bet the 1 to win/place and then key the 1 over (only) the “all button.” I will key over (only) the numbers listed, again.

Good Luck & All the Best/Gene

 

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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