01/06/2017 11:20AM

2016 Eclipse Awards: Not This Time

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Coady Photography/Churchill Downs
Not This Time won the Iroquois Stakes by more than eight lengths.

In Shackleford, Dale Romans trained a horse that won the Preakness and Metropolitan Handicap. In Kitten’s Joy, Romans trained a horse that won seven graded stakes and became an exceptional stallion. In Roses in May, Romans trained a horse that won the Dubai World Cup.

Still, when Romans talked about Not This Time, he said many times he thought he could be the best horse he ever trained.

“He checks off every box,” Romans said. “He’s got intelligence, he’s got pedigree, he’s got looks and turn of foot, and he’s already run fast. What else do you need?”

Health, primarily. A soft-tissue injury diagnosed two weeks after his runner-up finish in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile forced the premature retirement of Not This Time, who will stand at stud at Taylor Made Farm.

Still, his victory in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs in September, and his neck loss to Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile earned Not This Time a spot as finalist for an Eclipse Award in the 2-year-old male division.

:: Eclipse Awards: 2016 finalists with profiles

Not This Time is a son of Giant’s Causeway out of the Trippi mare Miss Macy Sue, making him a half-brother to Liam’s Map, winner of the 2015 Whitney and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. He was bred by his owners, the Albaugh Family Stable of Dennis Albaugh, which sold Liam’s Map.

Not This Time debuted June 30 at Churchill Downs. Though he was sent off the 7-5 favorite in a field of eight, he finished fifth, beaten 10 1/4 lengths.

Six weeks later, at Ellis Park, Not This Time lived up to Romans’s high regard, galloping to a 10-length maiden win going a mile. Romans said that jockey Robby Albarado told him the only horse that gave him a feeling to what he had that day was Curlin, a two-time Horse of the Year.

Not This Time made his stakes debut in the Iroquois, a 1 1/16-mile race run in the mud at Churchill Downs. After breaking awkwardly and racing wide throughout, Not This Time drew off to win by 8 3/4 lengths.

“I usually say to stay inside and eat them if you have to in order to save ground,” Romans said. “But when I think I have tons the best, I tell them to keep them in the clear and keep them in a nice, long gallop and just try to overtake them, and that’s what he did.”

Romans opted to train Not This Time up to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, where he was sent off the 5-2 favorite in the 11-horse field.

Breaking from post 10 of 11 in the Juvenile, Not This Time raced in sixth position early, advanced into third around the far turn and made a run at Classic Empire in the stretch, only to fall a neck short.

Though disappointed in the result, the performance had Romans looking forward to the colt’s 3-year-old season.

“I really believe Not This Time might have been the best horse I’ve ever had, so it’s a real shame to see him leave the barn before we got to see him fulfill his enormous potential, because there’s no doubt in my mind he was as good of a Kentucky Derby contender as there is out there,” Romans said.