Talked to trainer Dale Romans, who has won more races than any other conditioner in the history of the historic Churchill Downs, this morning. And, what a guy. Really, what a darn good guy.

He has horses in eight of the 12 races at Churchill Downs today, when the track will highlight the top 2-year-olds in the country today, and gear up for next Spring’s Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby with two of the most important and critical prep races — the G2 Golden Rod for the fillies and the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club for the colts.

And, he has two of the best prospects for the Kentucky Jockey Club in the speedy Promises Fulfilled and the late-closing Tiz Mischief.

And, that is on top of the fact that he breezed one of his most talented and most touted 2-year-old colts, Dak Attack, an important and vital half-mile over the Churchill Downs track this morning. (He did very well, mind you. And, although his next appointed round in the afternoon has not yet been determined, he may be only one or two more breezes away from returning to the big time.)

Still, Dale Romans had time to chat. And, review. And, dream.

(Catch the full interview on our Podcast this morning.  Update to come very soon.)

“I’m excited for today,” said Romans, when contacted at his barn this morning. “What a great day. I love the 2-year-olds and Churchill Downs will have them highlighted all day today.  I think we are in eight of them, although I did scratch out of the second just a few minutes ago.  My dream someday is to have a horse in every race. We will come pretty close today.

“But it makes for a fun day for me and the barn. We have a lot of work, but I think it will be a lot of fun, too.”

It could be a whole lot of fun by the time Romans gets to the feature — the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, which will be contested at 11/16-miles over the same dirt track where they will run the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May of 2018.

For many, this will kick off the Road to the Derby in earnest. And, today’s edition has a full field of 14 prospects who will be carrying a lot on their backs in addition to the rider.  They will be packing a load of dreams for their owners and connections.

Including, one Dale Romans.  The man who has won about everything you can win at Churchill Downs — except for the Kentucky Derby.

“Last year, I think I had my best 2-year-old ever in Not This Time,” said Romans. “He may have been the best I’ve ever had; and I think he will show it in the breeding shed, too. But we have, probably, the most talented group of 2-year-olds that we have ever had. I think we have about 6 to 8 legitimate horses that could be Derby contenders and material.

“We will have two of them going today, in Promises Fulfilled and Tiz Mischief.  They are totally different styled runners, so they won’t get in each other’s way today. One of them (Promises Fulfilled) really likes to run on the lead and is fast; the other one (Tiz Mischief) will be closing late. I think they both have a good shot in there today. I really do.”

Romans’ cast of 2-year-olds should have a good shots all over the board and the country, as they will soon head into their 3YO years and head towards the big races to come. And, it is by no accident. Romans set out, several years ago, with a game plan for all his major owners. He wanted to buy Derby contenders.

And, he certainly has hit the mark.

“It all starts with the September Yearling Sales (at Keeneland),” said Romans. “We set out several years ago to go up there, pick out and buy some of the best young horses that we thought could turn into classic runners; horses that fit the Triple Crown races. That’s where we all wanted to be. And, that is like our NFL Draft. You have to go and get the talent. You have to pick out the ones that you think will have a shot to be that good. And, that’s what we set out to do.

“And, we have been able to get some good ones, that’s for sure.”

The barn is deep and wide with his 2-year-old contenders. In addition to Promises Fulfilled and Tiz Mischief, who will be on full display today, Romans has the likes of:

(Dak Attack)

  1. Dak Attack, who won the Ellis Park Juvenile in style, before he sustained a small shin injury that took him to the sidelines in the afternoon.  The son of Ghostzapper never left the Romans’ barn and care, though, and he has has slowly returned to his breeze pattern in the afternoon. Today, Dak Attack looked better than he has in some time and he is getting closer to his return. “He may be the best of the group,” said Romans, who trains him for the Albaugh Family Stables and breeder Brereton C. Jones, of Airdrie Farm and former Governor fame. “He had a small little line in that shin, but the only way to heal that up is to keep training and put some endurance in there and let it heal naturally. We have done that and now the line is just a little bitty dot. He is getting closer and may be just a breeze or two away. We don’t know where he will run yet, but he’s getting closer.”
  2. Free Drop Billy, who won the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland with a sudden burst of energy and speed. He went on to run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and looked to be in a prime contention position before he faltered late and ran 9th. He is getting a breather now.
  3. Hollywood Star, a son of Malibu Moon, who ran 6th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile despite a horrid post position.  Before that he was a fast-closing second to The Tabulator in the G3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs and 2nd to the highly esteemed Copper Bullet in the G2 Saratoga Special.  He broke his maiden at Churchill Downs back in June going just 6 furlongs on talent alone. He’s is getting a short refreshening now, too.
  4. Tiz Mischief, who Romans trains for long-time “father figure” Frank Jones. This one broke his maiden going 11/16 miles at Keeneland beating a couple of highly ranked colts in Slot and Arrival. He will now face winners for the first time in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club. “There is nobody in the world that means more to me that Frank,” said Romans. “He had horses with my father and he has practically raised me. And, I can tell you this, no one deserves to have a good horse more than he does. No one.”
  5. Promises Fulfilled, a colt by one of Romans most favorite horses of all time — Shackleford.  He was the horse that looked like he may give Romans that all elusive first Kentucky Derby victory. After breaking well, Shackleford ran right past Comma To the Top and made the lead. And, that’s exactly where he stayed. With Romans and the world cheering, visions of roses turned into thorns about 200 yards from the finish of the grueling 11/4-mile test. He was passed first by eventual winner, Animal Kingdom.  With about 50 yards to go, he was passed by both Nehro and Mucho Macho Man. It wasn’t to be, although he did come back to win the Preakness Stakes for Romans just two weeks later. Now, a son of Shackleford, may be Romans’ ticket. “He has gotten so much better,” said Romans. “He just keeps getting better and better.”

The Road to the Kentucky Derby starts today, if it hasn’t already.  But it just may start and end with the Romans’ barn in 2018. He’s dreaming, any way.