08/16/2012 12:53PM

Arlington Park: Romans Empire unlikely to fall in Secretariat

Four-Footed Fotos
Silver Max is one of three Dale Romans horses entered in the Secretariat.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – The Romans Empire is flaunting its considerable muscle. Three of the eight 3-year-olds in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes have shipped north to Chicago from the Dale Romans barn at Churchill Downs, and the odds are good that one of them will find the Arlington Park winner’s circle at the end of their 1 1/4-mile journey Saturday.

His stable was not built in a day, and dozens of clients over the last quarter-century have helped Romans get to this enviable point. Romans, who was scheduled to arrive here Thursday night from Saratoga, said the respective owners of Silver Max, Cozzetti, and Finnegans Wake “all deserve a shot” at a share of the $500,000 purse, although horseplayers are sure to make their preference felt for Silver Max more than the other two.

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The speedy Silver Max brings a six-race win streak to the 36th running of the Secretariat, and unless one of the two European horses in the field, Daddy Long Legs or Bayrir, wants to gun early, it sure looks like jockey Robby Albarado might well be able to walk the proverbial dog out front aboard Silver Max. After breaking from the outside post in a field of eight, Silver Max will have the long run down the Arlington homestretch the first time to settle into stride, and the race most likely will boil down to when or if any late moves can be mustered from the opposition to seriously threaten him.

“I like the outside post,” said Romans. “He can just get out and clear them without any trouble, hopefully. Then it’ll be up to Robby to just get him into his rhythm.”

In his last triumph, the July 21 Virginia Derby, Silver Max showed he is capable at the 1 1/4-mile distance. The colt was supposed to face Summer Front that night, but trainer Christophe Clement scratched Summer Front from the Colonial Downs showcase because of the yielding turf condition, opting instead for an easier race at Saratoga the following afternoon. Summer Front won that day as a heavy favorite, keeping him unbeaten in five career turf tries, none of them farther than a mile, and he will get his shot at Silver Max in the Secretariat.

Summer Front arrived here Thursday after a heavy morning downpour, and Clement, speaking from Saratoga when referring to turf condition, cited a beautiful weather forecast for Friday and Saturday in saying, “We’ll be fine.”

“It’s Arlington,” Clement. “We’re going a mile and a quarter, and if the ground is good, we’re going to be okay.”

Ramon Dominguez, the leading rider at Saratoga this summer, is in to ride Summer Front, a War Front colt who has developed a terrific kick in those shorter grass races. Clement said he will not concern himself with race tactics and how Summer Front will proceed in his pursuit of Silver Max.

“I’ll let Dominguez worry about that,” he said. “I’m just trying to bring him over to the paddock feeling good and ready to run another big race.”

As for the other Romans horses, both will have to come from well back. Cozzetti had a breakthrough of sorts when surging to victory in the Grade 2 American Derby here five weeks ago, while Finnegans Wake made a big run from the back to briefly threaten Silver Max in the Virginia Derby before settling for third.

Of the others in the lineup, Bayrir seems the greatest danger to upset, having hinted of big potential in his four races in France. Daddy Long Legs, trained by Aidan O’Brien, has had two miserable tries in America, albeit both on dirt, while neither of the two remaining American runners, Handsome Mike and All Stormy, has yet to win a stakes.

The Secretariat is the third and final leg of the Mid-America Triple, and Romans could become the first to sweep it with different horses, having won the Arlington Classic with Silver Max and the American Derby with Cozzetti. Three horses have swept the series: Tom Rolfe (1965), Buckpasser (1966), and Honor Glide (1997).

The Secretariat was first run in 1974, the year after Big Red became the first horse in 25 years to sweep the Triple Crown. Romans, with Kitten’s Joy (2004) and Paddy O’Prado (2010), is among four trainers tied for most wins in the race, along with O’Brien, Bill Mott, and Lefty Nickerson. O’Brien won the race last year with Treasure Beach, who is back Saturday for the Arlington Million.

The Secretariat goes as the second of the four Festival events as race 8, with post time set for 3:48 p.m. Central.