11/05/2012 3:39PM

Breeders’ Cup: Romans clearly in Eclipse picture

Tom Keyser
Little Mike wins the Breeders’ Cup Turf, giving his trainer, Dale Romans, his eighth Grade 1 victory of the year.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Dale Romans was getting on a Kentucky-bound airplane Sunday morning with his family, still reveling in the aftermath of winning another huge race. The victory by Little Mike in the Breeders’ Cup Turf on Saturday at Santa Anita was the eighth in a Grade 1 for the Romans stable this year, further strengthening an argument for Romans to be voted his first Eclipse Award for top trainer.

“I don’t know who else is involved and what they’ve done exactly,” said Romans. “I haven’t really thought about it all that much. It’s something we can look at down the road a little. All I know is we’ve won eight Grade 1’s. I’m happy.”

Through the Breeders’ Cup, Romans was fourth in the earnings category among North American trainers with nearly $10.9 million. Todd Pletcher, a five-time Eclipse winner, is easily the leader with $18.7 million, followed by Bob Baffert with $13.3 million and Steve Asmussen with $11.5 million. Chad Brown and Bill Mott were in a tight race for fifth with nearly $10.3 million each.

Of the top group, Asmussen has the most wins (238) and starts (1,144). Pletcher is 203 of 759; Baffert, 131 of 450; Romans, 107 of 653; Brown, 124 of 433; and Mott, 89 of 550. Baffert and Brown lead in win percentage (29 percent), while Baffert leads in earnings per start ($29,734).

What might be argued, however, is that Romans has carried the greatest clout in races that matter most. He has 18 graded stakes wins this year from 99 starters, with the Grade 1’s being the Woodford Reserve, Arlington Million, and BC Turf by Little Mike; the Blue Grass and Pacific Classic by Dullahan; the Just a Game and First Lady by Tapitsfly; and the Metropolitan Mile by Shackleford.

Other graded winners for Romans this year were Silver Max, Guys Reward, Cozzetti, Quick Wit, Moonwalk, and Afleeting Lady.

“I really think Little Mike should be the turf champion with those huge races he’s won,” said Romans. “I love Wise Dan and respect everything he’s done, but we won the two biggest turf races, the Arlington Million and the Breeders’ Cup Turf.”

Baffert, a three-time Eclipse winner, leads with 13 Grade 1 wins, followed by Pletcher with 9; Romans, 8; Mott, 6; Brown, 4; and Asmussen, 2. Another trainer to consider is Doug O’Neill, who is ninth in earnings with $6.4 million but won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with I’ll Have Another.

Meanwhile, as Romans celebrated as Little Mike surged to victory, the connections of his other BC Turf starter, Dullahan, watched glumly as the colt checked in ninth, beaten seven lengths. Romans had contemplated the BC Mile for both horses before settling on the Turf for both.

Dullahan, owned by the Donegal Racing partnership of Jerry Crawford, “ran a pretty good race, I thought,” said Romans. “Both horses had great years. Any time you run two horses in the same race, you feel bad for one owner and sometimes you feel good for the other. And sometimes you feel bad for both.”

Also, Romans said he has no idea about when or if a reality show about his family – his life partner, Tammy Fox; their daughter, Bailey; and their son, Jake – will reach a mass audience. “They’ve shot three reels, but nobody’s picked it up as far as I know,” said Romans. Filming took place earlier this year at a variety of venues, including racetracks and the Romans home in Louisville, Ky.