HAS DALE ROMANS’ KENTUCKY DERBY MOMENT FINALLY COME ALONG?

I recall speaking with Dale Romans by phone the day after Dennis’ Moment broke his maiden by double-digits at Ellis Park. It was then, and still remains, one of the most dominating performances by a juvenile this year.

Dennis’ Moment’s impressive win at Ellis Park
Photo: Coady Photography

We were tempted to write broke maiden “on debut,” but technically couldn’t because he did have a previous start. However, the colt clipped heels on that occasion, lost his rider and never actually competed in a race.

His second start went a little differently, and a lot better. Stretching out to 7 furlongs, a bit of an unusually long trip for a July two-year-old, it turns out that the farther he ran, the larger the margin of victory.

Not many juveniles win their first start at the maiden-allowance level by 19 lengths while never being urged in the final furlong.

If the Louisville, KY native has aspirations of winning his first Derby–and he has for some time–he’s auditioning Irad Ortiz jr. for the role of pilot, and it likely is vice versa. Ortiz takes over the mount from Miguel Mena.

Romans’ message to the Churchill Downs press staff is no different than the thoughts he expressed to me earlier:

“I can only think of one other horse that I’ve trained that has shown this much potential as a 2-year-old and that’s Not This Time [winner the 2016 Iroquois and second to Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile],” Romans said to Jennie Reese and the KD press staff this week.

“I think we are all looking at a potential future star. Even though this horse is only a maiden winner, the way he was able to just simply dominate the competition that day at Ellis Park left me breathless. “

Dennis’ Moment is expected to be the ante post favorite for Saturday’s Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at 1-1/16 miles, a traditional prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, meaning he gets to answer the two-turn question this weekend.

Dennis’ Moment will have nine opponents of which two appear to be the most formidable, that assessment without a deep dive into the numbers or video research of the competition.

On paper, Steve Asmussen trainee Rowdy Yates, 2-for-3 lifetime, including the Ellis Park Juvenile AUG 18, is the first. The other colt is the Eddie Kenneally-trained Scabbard, stretching out off two sprints that include a last out placing behind the very promising Green Light Go in the G2 Saratoga Special.

At $400,000, nearly three times the average price of a Tiznow offspring, he is the most expensive horse in the field.

An interesting aside is that six of his nine rivals are either home-breds or sold for five figures.

Comparatively, five yearlings sold for seven figures at the Keeneland Fall Sales on Wednesday, including Beholder’s half-sister for an astounding $8.2 million. But I digress.

Dennis’ Moment has been working quite steadily and very fast over Saturday’s surface for a trainer who is adept at stretching out his young stock.

“I am going to start acting like a football coach and say ‘one race at a time’ with him. Let’s just get it done Saturday, and then see where we stand.”

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6 Responses

  1. He looked pretty good drawing off in the Iroquois. If I have any slight slight criticism, it would be that he did seem to shy from the whip when Irod tested it on him – he seemed to jut inside when hit right handed. It did seem as if Irad then let him get his bearings and then late stretch he just showed him the right handed whip and the horse maintained course nicely. I think it also speaks to what an incredibly sharp horseman Irad Ortiz is as well that he used the lack of competition to test and train him on the track. This is why trainers move hot prospects onto elite jockeys.

  2. Right on all counts, Doc.

    I too noticed the greenness after getting the lead approaching the eighth pole. But this was only his second true start after all, his first around two turns, where he showed an ability to rate and eat a little dirt.

    Irad absolutely schooled him late, which he explained in a TV post-race interview. Good job all around.

    But no one knows more than Dale and Irad, and veteran observers, that next time it will be a much deeper end of the pool…

  3. Speaking of 2yo, I can’t remember the last time a state bred 2yo ran into debut monster performances in consecutive races the way Dream Bigger did once again in the 8th race on Sunday. I didn’t get to catch the repay and head on (had dinner plans and finding parking on Northern Blvd in Jackson Heights on a Sunday is rather time consuming), but I would imagine the fig for Harris Bay is going to come back unusually strong for a MSS 2yo debut effort. The show and 4th place horses both figured to move up off previous efforts and were both left in the dust.

  4. Will check it out Doc.

    Meanwhile, while attending SJU, I lived in Jackson Heights one block off Northern Blvd.

    Love it when the world shrinks this way…

  5. Nice – I went to Queens College and scheduled my classes as often as possible to have my afternoons open for more important things taking place in So. Ozone Park and on the Queens Village/Elmont border.

  6. Noon was my last class in junior and senior years. On good traffic days would be at Aqueduct in 20 minutes, 15 from the Happy Times…

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