10/28/2004 11:00PM

Fall is Romans' time of year

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Lady Tak, winning the Gallant Bloom in October, will run in next Sunday's $200,000 Churchill Downs Distaff at one mile.

Dale Romans spent the last week in Texas overseeing just two horses and waiting for what might have been the biggest day of his training career. Besides answering the same questions about Kitten's Joy and Roses in May dozens of times, playing a couple of rounds of golf, and wondering just how to kill the extra time on his hands, Romans also was looking forward to another fall meet at Churchill Downs, his home track in Louisville, Ky.

"The fall meet at Churchill is always a great one," said Romans. "For Kentucky people, the main racing season basically goes from April to November, so this is the end of our year. You want to go out on a big note."

Over the last few years, Romans has become the most successful trainer at Churchill. He had won or tied for four straight spring-meet training titles before Steve Asmussen beat him last spring. Romans said he does not come into a meet with the goal of being leading trainer, but with multiple goals.

"All I know is I have a lot of horses doing really good right now, and we've got them for a lot of different categories," said Romans. "We should win quite a few races and hopefully a stakes or two. As far as being leading trainer, let the chips fall where they may. I'm just glad to be in the position I'm in."

Noting the many breakthroughs his stable has experienced this year, Romans said, "It's been a great, great year, no matter what happens the next few weeks. It'll all be gravy."

Asmussen, meanwhile, takes essentially the same approach when a meet starts. "We try to win races every day," said Asmussen, the national victory leader who also oversees strings at several different tracks. "Everywhere, every day, all the time. We try to win everything we get near. If being leading trainer happens for us at Churchill, then it happens."

Lady Tak ready for mile

Lady Tak, the Grade 1-winning filly trained by Asmussen, will run next Sunday in the $200,000 Churchill Downs Distaff at one mile.

Although Lady Tak may be slightly more effective at shorter distances, Asmussen said he is confident she will handle the mile Sunday. "She's run well around two turns, and she's doing really well right now," he said. "I'd like to think she'll be the horse to beat in that spot."

Patriot Act looks to be huge favorite

Patriot Act, a maiden good enough to finish second to Consolidator three weeks ago in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, figures to be the heaviest favorite on the opening-day card when he faces nine other 2-year-olds in the fourth race at 1 1/16 miles.

Trainer Neil Howard said after the Breeders' Futurity that, instead of running Patriot Act back in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, he would try to knock out a maiden victory and then point Patriot Act to the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on closing day, Nov. 27.

Song Dancer up for fourth in row

One of the traditional features of Halloween programs at Churchill is a one-mile race restricted to gray horses. "The Gray Ghost," as it is known, drew seven horses, led by Song Dancer, who will be bidding for his fourth straight win.

The Gray Ghost is carded as the second of 10 races.

Honor in War to River City

Honor in War, the 5-year-old turf standout who was excluded from the Breeders' Cup Mile, will now point to the $150,000 River City Handicap on Nov. 21.

Honor in War is coming off a sharp runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile at Keeneland.

Roses to be planted in paddock

With the Kentucky Derby long known as "The Run for the Roses," Churchill has long been associated with the beautiful red flowers. But for whatever reason, roses have never been part of Churchill's permanent landscape - until now.

Churchill's horticulturist, John Backert, has overseen the planting of new rose bushes in the paddock garden surrounding the statue of Aristides.

"The variety had to be hardy and disease resistant," said Backert. "Most importantly, we wanted a rose that would be in bloom for the first Saturday in May, Kentucky Derby Day."

At a glance: Churchill Downs

RACING SCHEDULE: 21 days; Oct. 31 through Nov. 27; dark Mondays and Tuesdays (except open Election Day, Nov. 2).

POST TIME: 12:40 p.m. Eastern daily, except Nov. 25-27 (11:30 a.m.)

ADMISSIONS: General, $2; seniors, $1; Twin Spires members, free.

PARKING: Longfield Ave., free; valet, $5; prices vary in other lots.

LOCATION: 700 Central Ave. in Louisville, Ky.

PHONE: (502) 636-4400.

INTERNET: www.churchilldowns.com or www.kentuckyderby.com.