03/15/2010 11:00PM

First Dude looks to build on his last

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - A head bob may be the difference between how First Dude is perceived coming into the Florida Derby.

Had First Dude prevailed by a head over Fly Down in a first-level allowance race here Feb. 21, he would be riding a two-race winning streak into the Florida Derby, with both wins coming over Gulfstream Park's main track. Having lost the race, however, he will be one of a handful of horses with simply a maiden win on their resume.

But trainer Dale Romans has high expectations for First Dude, a son of Stephen Got Even who has three seconds to go along with his maiden win going a mile here Jan. 30.

"We think this horse is a quality horse, he keeps improving," said Romans, who trains First Dude for owner/breeder Donald Dizney. "We expect a big race out of him. He ran a mile and an eighth last time; second trip around two turns, he should improve."

In that Feb. 21 race - run at the Florida Derby distance of 1 1/8 miles - First Dude dueled on the lead outside of the Todd Pletcher-trained Colizeo through sharp fractions, put that rival away turning for home, but couldn't fend off Fly Down, who rallied from last to win a head bob at the wire.

"The horse that beat him is a good horse," Romans said. "We did all the work up front with the favorite of Todd's and still lasted and finished strong. With that race under his belt, I think he will improve."

Romans is making a jockey change for the Florida Derby, tabbing Ramon Dominguez to replace Jesus Castanon. Dominguez rode First Dude to a second-place finish in his debut last October at Keeneland.

"Nothing against Castanon, Dominguez is one of my favorite riders in the country, one of everybody's favorite riders," Romans said. "If you can get him, get him."