09/07/2013 9:46PM

Churchill Downs: Romans-trained longshots 1-2 in Iroquois

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Reed Palmer Photography/Churchill Downs
Cleburne (inside) holds off stablemate Smart Cover in the Iroquois for 2-year-olds.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Little doubt that Dale Romans has “bounced” after his Eclipse Award-winning 2012 season, but an incredible finish to the Iroquois Stakes on Saturday night made up for a lot of 2013 disappointment.

A wild winner’s circle celebration was kicked off when a pair of Romans longshots, Cleburne and Smart Cover, finished 1-2 for Donegal Racing in the Grade 3, $171,750 Iroquois, one of four stakes on a Downs After Dark card at Churchill Downs.

Cleburne, a 34-1 shot, finished a neck ahead of his stablemate Smart Cover, a 26-1 shot in a field of 10 2-year-olds.

“This is fabulous,” Romans said while mobbed by well-wishers afterward. “Look at all these Donegal people.”

With about 100 yards to go, such a finish looked highly improbable. Tapiture and Ride On Curlin, both 2-1, had engaged in a sustained duel from the quarter pole to the eighth pole, with Tapiture finally getting the best of that battle. But then Cleburne suddenly surfaced with an outside surge, and then Smart Cover came flying with a belated run farthest out onto the track. The winning time for the 1 1/16-mile distance was 1:45.65 over a fast surface.

Tapiture finished third, another neck back, with Ride On Curlin fourth by another two lengths.

Corey Lanerie, who had arrived less than an hour earlier when among eight jockeys on a charter plane following a full day of riding at Kentucky Downs, was aboard Cleburne.

Cleburne earned an expenses-paid Win and You’re In berth toward the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, as well as the first 10 points toward the 2014 Kentucky Derby.

Donegal, managed by Iowa attorney Jerry Crawford, has been a prominent player in recent years with such standouts as Dullahan and Paddy O’Prado.

The $2 exacta (5-10) paid an even $500, surely far lower than what it would have paid if not for the obvious all-Romans/Donegal combination.

Tapiture, a maiden, clearly ran well in defeat, while the result was more a disappointment for Run On Curlin, who had been the subject of deep-pocketed suitors since starting his career here in June.

“No excuse,” said Calvin Borel, rider of Run On Curlin.

Untapable stays unbeaten in Pocahontas

Some 30 minutes earlier, Untapable ($13.60) outgamed favored Stonetastic in a torrid stretch run to remain unbeaten in two starts in the Grade 2, $168,150 Pocahontas Stakes, and the filly counterpart to the Iroquois.

With Rosie Napravnik fresh off the Kentucky Downs charter, Untapable overcame some early trouble when prevailing by a half-length. She finished the distance in 1:44.38.

Stonetastic, the 8-5 choice under Joe Bravo, had taken over from Elena Strikes and Milam before Untapable angled out and ran her down. Untapable, bred and owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and trained by Steve Asmussen, was noticeably rank in the vicinity of the six-furlong pole before “she settled into a nice rhythm,” noted Asmussen.

“They kind of backed it up on us in the second quarter,” said Napravnik. “She was awesome.”

Untapable, by Tapit, also earned an expenses-paid Win and You’re In berth toward the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, as well as the first 10 points toward the 2014 Kentucky Oaks. The filly was a maiden winner at Churchill in the spring in her lone prior start before being scratched from the Adirondack last month at Saratoga with a minor illness. Asmussen said he would wait to see how the filly came out of the race before deciding how to proceed to the Breeders’ Cup.

Untapable is a half-sister to Paddy O’Prado, the multiple Grade 1 winner campaigned by Donegal.