05/26/2012 8:59AM

Belmont Stakes 2012: Having Dullahan fresh for Belmont looks good to Romans now

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Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
In order to avoid the heat, Dullahan and exercise rider Tammy Fox went out for a one-mile gallop at dawn Saturday at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Dale Romans might have felt a little disappointed when owner Jerry Crawford told him they were bypassing the Preakness with Dullahan. Romans felt the colt belonged in the Pimlico classic off his rousing third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, but Crawford wanted to take a more prudent route, saving Dullahan for the Belmont Stakes after his chance to win the Triple Crown was gone.

“I did want to run in the Preakness,” Romans said Saturday morning at Churchill Downs, a couple hours after calling an audible by sending out Dullahan for a one-mile workout as dawn was breaking. “But Jerry said no, and in hindsight, I think he made the right call. We’ve got a fresh horse for the Belmont, and I couldn’t be happier with how he’s doing.”

[BELMONT STAKES: Video updates, expected field, early odds]

An oppressive heat wave began hovering over the Louisville area Friday, with the heat index set to soar into triple digits, and Romans, having said repeatedly he would work Dullahan after the regularly scheduled harrow break, decided late the prior evening not to expose the colt to such conditions. So it was up and out early. “It was the right move,” said Romans.

With Tammy Fox aboard, Dullahan went through splits of 26 seconds, 38.60, 51.40, 1:04.60, and 1:17.40 when passing under the wire a second time in 1:43, according to Churchill clocker John Nichols. His out time for 1 1/8 miles was 1:57.

“I loved the way he went,” said Fox.

Dullahan, owned by the Donegal Racing partnership headed by Crawford, will be one of the top wagering choices in the June 9 Belmont in New York after I’ll Have Another, who will be bidding to become the 12th winner of the Triple Crown.

Romans said he was not concerned with the slow workout time over what has been a relatively slow Churchill main track.

“All I care about is how he’s feeling and how strong he’s going,” said Romans. “He’s been eating up and doing everything right. Tammy’s happy, I’m happy.”

Romans ran seventh-place finisher Cozzetti as a longshot in the May 19 Preakness, but in the back of his mind, he was wondering how Dullahan would fare after the colt came streaking home to be beaten just 1 3/4 lengths by I’ll Have Another in the May 5 Derby.

“The way the [Preakness] set up, we probably would’ve been at a big disadvantage,” said Romans. “So it’s worked out for us so far. Now all we have to do is go up there and win.”

Dullahan was scheduled to leave Churchill by van Sunday evening and join the Romans string of runners at Belmont around 10 a.m. Monday morning. A Saturday work at Belmont will complete the colt’s serious preparations for the race.