06/28/2013 12:42PM

Churchill Downs: Returning Moonwalk could give Romans a lift

Barbara D. Livingston
Moonwalk begins her 3-year-old season in a turf allowance on Sunday. She won the Jessamine at Keeneland last fall.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The comeback that Dale Romans plans for the second half of 2013 just happens to coincide with the comeback of a filly named Moonwalk.

Romans, the Eclipse Award-winning trainer of 2012, has had a forgettable first half to this year but is optimistic that the ensuing months will be more productive. The end of the 38-day Churchill Downs spring meet Sunday might well be where it all starts when Moonwalk returns from an eight-month layoff in the $54,000 feature, a second-level allowance scheduled for a mile on turf.

Moonwalk, bred and owned by the Spendthrift Farm of B. Wayne Hughes, won the Grade 3 Jessamine Stakes last fall at Keeneland before fading to finish seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita.

“She came up with some issues after that and just needed a little time,” said Romans, who was easily the leading trainer here last spring. “I love the way she’s been training. Hopefully she’ll help us get started on our way back. We’re headed up to Saratoga soon with some nice stock.”

Romans entered the final three-day stretch of the Churchill meet with just 5 wins from 57 starters, while stable earnings for 2013 stood at $1.4 million, a far cry from his career-high of $11.8 million last year.

Moonwalk, by the red-hot Malibu Moon, will break from post 4 with Jesus Castanon aboard as part of a field of eight fillies in the fourth of 10 Sunday races. First post for the closing-day card is 12:45 p.m. Eastern, with the feature set for 2:19. One other allowance (race 9) is on the card.

Moonwalk did not race on Lasix in the Breeders’ Cup, as per the rule for 2-year-old races on the program, after having the medication for her preceding four starts. She is back Sunday with Lasix.

“I’m just glad to have her back, doing as well as she is,” said Romans, who has sent her out for nine workouts since late April.

Perhaps one of the top threats to Moonwalk is another 3-year-old, Street of Gold, who draws alongside in post 3 with leading jockey Shaun Bridgmohan to ride. Otherwise, there are five 4-year-olds in opposition in what shapes up as a very well-matched lineup.

After Sunday, live action on the Kentucky circuit shifts to Ellis Park in Henderson, after which racing returns here sooner than usual with the new 12-day “Homecoming Meet” in September. Ellis will run Thursday through Sept. 2.