(Dennis’ Moment with the Albaugh Family after winning the G3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs last year / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

It was last summer, when he was in the midst of one of his toughest meets in history, that the affable Dale Romans — a longtime friend of mine and a better horse trainer — gave us all a hint of what may be great things to come.

In an audio cast with us here at “The Pressbox,” Romans chatted about his ups and downs; his ins and outs; his wins and losses; and his horses of 2019. Then, towards the end of our interview, Romans gave us a morsel worth chewing on.

For the first time, ever, Romans gave us a glimpse under the tent.

For the first time, Romans got us a hint that only the insiders get.

For the first time, Romans talked about this 2-year-old colt by the name of Dennis’ Moment.

“I know people like to hear about horses that have not started yet, but may be good ones down the road,” Romans started out. “I think I have one of those in my barn right now. I have a horse by the name of Dennis’ Moment for the Albaugh Family. If he’s half as good as I think he is, I think we have a chance to have a lot of good moments in the future. I really and truly think that he could be the one.”

The one?

The one to finally give Churchill Downs’ all-time winningest trainer his elusive Kentucky Derby victory?

The one to finally give Louisville’s born and Louisville’s raised Dale Romans the one victory that he has chased and cherished since he was a little boy growing up and around his daddy’s barn along the Churchill Downs’ backside?

The one to finally deliver the man to the promised land of racing’s highest pinnacle and greatest achievement — the winner’s circle on the grass course of Churchill Downs’ famed and historic racetrack in a land of many roses?

Really?

Truly?

This horse — who had not even run in a single race to date — was to be the one?

Yep.

That’s the one.

The one and only.

Dale Romans believed, even back then, before the horse’s first race and anyone else had a clue.

Dale Romans believed even more when his aspiring steed romped to impressive and glorious wins in both a maiden race and the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs.

And, Dale Romans still believes today. Even when some people may doubt.

And, if Dale Romans believes? We, too, believe.

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

In our first “Kentucky Derby Rankings” for 2020, we have installed Dennis’ Moment has our top pick for this year’s “Run for the Roses.” And, to be sure, we will keep him there until he either proves us right, or until someone else proves us wrong.

To back up our support, we have already placed a handsome wager in the winter books in Vegas — at odds of 16-1.

To support our support, we have already placed an additional wager with the “Churchill Downs’ Future Wager” on our TwinSpires.com account.

And, will we add more support in the upcoming pools and pots when the opportunities come along.

If Dale Romans believes? We believe, too.

It has not always been an easy journey, mind you.

In his first career start, Dennis’ Moment ran in a 5 furlong sprint at Churchill Downs on June 23. He broke from the No. 2 position and was urged to take up running along the rail by jockey Robby Albarado.

Instead of finding an opening, though, Albarado found a world of trouble. His horse clipped heels with another, and twisted awkwardly.   The jockey found the ground. Dennis’ Moment found out that this racing game was tough. And, Romans found his stomach in his throat.

Remarkably, the horse was OK and a month later, Dennis’ Moment got to run again at Ellis Park. He broke his maiden by nearly 20 lengths.

That’s 2-0. Twenty.

That was impressive.

Two months later, Dennis’ Moment was at it again. Stretching out to the two turns for the first time, Dennis’ Moment soared from an outside post to draw off and win the G3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs by an easy 13/4-length win — although he was shut down nearing the wire.

That’s 13/4 lengths over a horse that would come back and run 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

That was impressive.

To finish out the year, though, Dennis’ Moment found troubles once again. In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the 2YO son of Tiznow broke from the gate. He didn’t get to take a single step before his hooves dug deep into the soft dirt and the soft dirt blew away like sand in a hurricane. Dennis’ Moment’s knees crushed into the dirt, tipping Dennis’ Moment’s nose into the surface.

Although he managed to stay up — just like he did in the first career race — Dennis’ Moment had no chance on the game’s biggest stage. He looped around the track and Romans’ had to check his stomach yet again.

(Dennis’ Moment working at Churchill Downs last summer / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

Now, Dennis’ Moment and Romans are both at Gulfstream Park in sunny Florida. They are getting ready for the Fountain of Youth Stakes. More importantly, though, they are getting ready for the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby.

They are getting ready for their Kentucky Derby.

It is still 4 months away. But it is time to get started. It is time to start getting excited. It is time to begin speculating.

Today, Dennis’ Moment tops our first KY Derby Rankings.

And, we hope that he stays right there all the way to the winner’s circle on that glorious First Saturday in May.

We hope for our great friend Dale.

We hope for the Albaugh Family.

We hope for Dennis’ Moment to have his greatest moment.

The “Road” is never easy. Has not been, to date. Unlikely to be until then. It is not supposed to be.

But it is the “Road” that helps make “The Horse.”

Here’s our look as the “Road” begins:

Horse Sire Trainer Jockey Last Race Next Race Comments
1 Dennis’ Moment Tiznow Dale Romans Irad Oritz, Jr. 8th in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile G2 Fountain of Youth — GP on Feb. 29 Only 2 Loses Due to Horrendous Trips / The Real Deal
2 Independence Hall Constitution Michael Trombetta Jose Ortiz 1st in Jerome Stakes G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes — Tampa on Feb. 9 Talent Galore / Still Learning How to Use It
3 Storm The Court Court Vision Peter Eurton Flavien Prat 1st in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile G3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes — SA on Feb. 1 Hard to Dismiss the BC Juv Winner
4 Thousand Words Pioneerof the Nile Bob Baffert Flavien Prat 1st in Los Alamitos Futurity G2 San Felipe Stakes — SA on March 7 Looks To Be Baffert’s Best / For Now
5 Silver Prospector Declaration of War Steve Asmussen Ricardo Santana, Jr 1st in KY Jockey Club TBD Was Tremendous in KY Jockey Club at CD
6 Ajaaweed Curlin Kiaran McLaughlin Joel Rosario 2nd in Remsen Stakes TBD Our “Sleeper” in This Year’s Group / Watch Out Here
7 Structor Palace Malice Chad Brown Jose Ortiz 1st in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf TBD Can He Convert to Dirt? / Can’t Dismiss Chad Brown
8 Anneau d’Or Medaglia d’Oro Blaine Wright Jose Hernandez 2nd in Los Alamitos Futurity El Camino Real Derby — Feb. 15 Has Run Some Impressive 2nds / Can He Win Big Ones?
9 Shotski Blame Jeremiah O’Dwyer Luis Saez 1st in Remsen Stakes G3 Withers Stakes — AQU on Feb. 1 Interested / But Must See More
10 Maxfield Street Sense Brendan Walsh Jose Oritz 1st in Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity TBD Must See One After Surgery / But Talented
11 Tiz the Law Constitution Barclay Tagg Manny Franco 3rd in KY Jockey Club G2 Holy Bull Stakes at GP on Feb. 1 Ran Better Than It Looked in KY Jockey Club / Game
12 Authentic Into Mischief Bob Baffert Drayden Van Dyke 1st in G3 Sham Stakes TBD Can Become Baffert’s Best /Very Soon After Sham
13 Gouverneur Morris Constitution Todd Pletcher Javier Castellano 2nd in Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity TBD Was Impressive at KEE From Impossible Post / More?
14 Scabbard More Than Ready Eddie Kenneally Mike Smith 4th in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile G3 Lecomte Stkaes at FG on Jan. 18 Has to Improve A Little / But May Just Do That
15 Lynn’s Map Liam’s Map Mark Casse Corey Lanerie 1st in FG Allowance G3 Lecomte Stkaes at FG on Jan. 18 Ran Super in First at FG / Piques Interest
16 Mr. Monomoy Palace Malice Brad Cox Florent Geroux 2nd in FG Allowance G3 Lecomte Stkaes at FG on Jan. 18 Can He Be As Good as His Half-Sister? / Maybe?
17 High Velocity Quality Road Bob Baffert Drayden Van Dyke 3rd in Los Alamitos Futurity G2 San Vicente Stakes at SA on Feb. 9 Can Come Off the Baffert Bench / Maybe
18 Wrecking Crew Sky Kingdom Peter Miller Abel Cedillo 4th in Los Alamitos Futirity TBD Would Appear to Be a Distance Runner
19 Eight Rings Empire Maker Bob Baffert John Velazquez 6th in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile G2 Rebel Stakes at OP on March 14 Can Be Baffert’s Best / Again
20 Green Light Go Hard Spun Jimmy Jerkens Junior Alvarado 2nd in Champagne Stakes TBD Never Run a Bad One Yet
Others
1 Shoplifted Into Mischief Steve Asmussen Ricardo Santana, Jr 1st in Remington Springboard Mile TBD Got Up in OK / But Remington Is Not Churchill Downs
2 Honor A.P. Honor Code John Shirreffs Mike Smith 1st in SA MSW TBD Love The Breeding Here / Let’s See More
3 Basin Liam’s Map Steve Asmussen Jose Ortiz 1st in Hopeful Stakes G2 Rebel Stakes at OP on March 14 Rebel Is Very Important
4 Finnick The Fierce Dialed In Reuben Hernandez G. St. Leon 2nd in KY Jockey Club TBD Dialed In? Distance?
5 Answer In Dialed In Brad Cox Javier Castellano 2nd in Remington Springboard Mile TBD Dialed In? Distance?
6 Chance It Currency Swap Saffie Joseph, Jr. Tyler Gaffalione 1st in Mucho Macho Man Stakes TBD All Out to Win the Mucho Macho Man / All Out
7 Toledo Into Mischief Chad Brown Irad Ortiz, Jr. 1st in AQU MSW TBD One to Watch
8 Chestertown Tapit Steve Asmussen Irad Ortiz, Jr. 1st in AQU MSW TBD Another One to Watch
9 American Theorem American Pharoah G. Papaprodromou Tiago Pereira 2nd in American Pharoah Stakes G2 San Felipe Stakes at SA on March 7 Love to See This One in KY Derby
10 Tizamagician Tiznow Richard Mandella Victor Espinoza 2nd in SA MSW TBD Mandella Deserves Another Shot