05/07/2012 1:44PM

Churchill Downs: Romans up close and personal

Barbara D. Livingston
Dale Romans sent out three winners of graded stakes over two days at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It was yet another respectable effort, albeit another losing one. In the last three runnings of the Kentucky Derby, horses trained by Dale Romans have finished third (Paddy O’Prado, 2010), fourth (Shackleford, 2011), and third (Dullahan, 2012), and it’s starting to frustrate the Louisville-born trainer a little.

“It is a letdown to run so well and get so close three years in a row,” Romans said Monday morning. “I guess it’s better than running up the racetrack, but the Derby’s a race you’re not sure you’re ever going to make it back to. When you’ve got a horse that runs so big, you’d sure like to go on and win.”

Dullahan, with Kent Desormeaux aboard for the Donegal Racing partnership, just got too far back and had too many horses to pass to catch the top two finishers, I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister, in the 138th Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs. At the half-mile pole, Dullahan was 13th of 20, and although he closed stoutly after swinging widest of all at the quarter pole to be beaten just a neck for second by Bodemeister, he never really had a chance to win it all. I’ll Have Another won by 1 1/2 lengths over Bodemeister.

Romans said he was very proud of the way the colt performed and that he came back in good shape, but he is uncertain if he and Jerry Crawford, who manages Donegal, want to try the May 19 Preakness at Pimlico in Baltimore. Paddy O’Prado was sixth in the 2010 Preakness for Donegal, while Shackleford won last year for Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbage.

“We’re still discussing it,” said Romans. “I don’t know whether or not I’d work him before the race or not. We’re going to see how he trains for a few days and take it from there.”

If not for the Derby disappointment, the weekend could be called a smashing success for Romans. He sent out Silver Max to a front-running victory Friday in the Grade 2 American Turf, then won two more major races on the Derby undercard when Shackleford scored his first victory since the Preakness in taking the Grade 2 Churchill Downs and Little Mike went wire to wire in capturing the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.

“It was a huge weekend for the barn,” said Romans. “The Derby’s the biggest one of them all, though, obviously. You’d trade them all for the Derby.”