03/22/2012 3:11PM

Aqueduct: Romancing the Gold could wind up Triple Crown nominee


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Owner Adam Wachtel was at Aqueduct on Dec. 31, looking at a field of soon-to-be 3-year-olds in the paddock for a maiden race. While there were several horses that on form drew his interest, there was one that caught his eye from a physical standpoint.

That horse, Romancing the Gold, won the third race that day at 41-1. Shortly thereafter, Wachtel made inquiries into possibly purchasing the horse. Rebuked at first, Wachtel and his business partner Nils Brous kept tabs on the gelding.

On March 7, after Romancing the Gold won a first-level allowance race at Aqueduct, Wachtel and Brous purchased half-interest in the horse, a son of Medallist, from Orlando DiRienzo. Romancing the Gold will remain with trainer Jeremiah Englehart.

While Wachtel is not necessarily dreaming of the Kentucky Derby, Romancing the Gold will get a chance to earn his way into that race by running next in the Grade 2, $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne or, less likely, the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Both races are on April 7.

Last summer, Wachtel and Brous purchased half-interest in Ron the Greek, who earlier this month won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap.

“He’s impressive. He’s a nice size, good-looking 3-year-old,” Wachtel said of Romancing the Gold. “He is a gelding. That didn’t bother me. We’re not into making stallions. We’re kind of excited about him.”

Wachtel said he felt Romancing the Gold beat a decent field the day he won his maiden race and also received good speed figures. DiRienzo told Wachtel he wanted to run the horse one more time before he entertained offers to sell. In his next race, on Feb. 3, Romancing the Gold stumbled slightly coming out of the gate and strained a hind end muscle. He finished sixth.

He came back in the same condition on March 7 and won a first-level allowance by one length.

Romancing the Gold is not nominated to the Triple Crown, but Wachtel said he most likely will be before Saturday’s deadline. The late nomination fee is $6,000.

“Odds of us winding up in the Kentucky Derby aren’t very high, trying to be realistic about this,” Wachtel said. “If he were to run a huge race in Illinois and earn his way in then that’s a different story.”

Wachtel said the Triple Crown race he might be most interested in is the Belmont Stakes.

“Maybe if he’s doing well and he establishes that he’s a legit 3-year-old I’d have no problem looking at the Belmont,” Wachtel said.

Romancing the Gold was scheduled to work at Belmont on Friday.

Regarding Ron the Greek, Wachtel said the early summer goal is the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs on June 16. Wachtel said trainer Bill Mott will decide whether Ron the Greek runs before then, possibly in the Oaklawn Handicap on April 14.

Ortiz targeting New York

Jose Ortiz, the 18-year-old younger brother of Irad Ortiz Jr., will join the Aqueduct colony next week.

Ortiz won with his first New York mount on Wednesday, guiding Corofin to victory for trainer Rudy Rodriguez.

Ortiz won 16 races in Puerto Rico and was 2 for 12 at Parx, where he will ride this weekend before coming to New York on Wednesday. He will be represented by Mike Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero Jr. has already committed to working with Ortiz, going over tapes with the young rider on dark days.

Wildcat’s Smile working toward return

Wildcat’s Smile, the New York-bred filly who finished second by a nose in last November’s Grade 2 Demoiselle, worked four furlongs in 48.88 seconds Tuesday morning over the Belmont training track. It was the fastest of 23 works at the distance and her second breeze since returning from a winter freshening.

Trainer Dominic Galluscio said Wildcat’s Smile spent a couple of months with trainer Steve DiMauro at Calder before shipping here the last week of February.

Galluscio does not have a specific race picked out for Wildcat’s Smile, but said her first start back would likely come against New York-breds.

At 2, Wildcat’s Smile beat males in the $260,000 Breeders’ Futurity at Finger Lakes. She finished second in the Joseph Gimma before getting run down by Disposoablepleasure in the final strides of the Demoiselle.

“Man that was something,” Galluscio said. “That was a tough beat.”

◗ The stewards fined jockey Junior Alvarado $1,000 for failure to finish Wednesday’s ninth race in a professional manner.

Alvarado did not ride Inquest, a mount he picked up late, to the wire and was caught for second by Keyaly.