04/04/2006 11:00PM

Guidry no longer Romans's main man


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Jockey Mark Guidry enjoyed the most productive year of his career in 2005 when his mounts earned nearly $7.7 million. Guidry, now 46, won the Santa Anita Derby on Buzzards Bay, tied for a riding title at the Churchill Downs fall meet, and rode with such consistency and distinction that his fellow jockeys voted him the winner of the George Woolf Memorial Award early this year.

One of the primary driving forces behind Guidry's success was his close business relationship with Dale Romans, the dominant trainer on the Kentucky circuit in recent years. On the racetrack, the two were nearly inseparable, as Romans named Guidry on virtually all of his runners.

Their teamwork continued seamlessly through the first three months of 2006 at Gulfstream Park, including last Saturday, when Guidry rode Sharp Humor for Romans in the Florida Derby. Sharp Humor led most of the way before being narrowly defeated by Barbaro.

Shockingly, the start of the Keeneland spring meet has brought abrupt change in the Romans and Guidry partnership: When Romans saddles six horses on the Friday opener, it will be Rene Douglas, and not Guidry, who will ride every one of them.

Romans, 39, said Guidry still will have the mount on Sharp Humor in the May 6 Kentucky Derby, but that he is unhappy that Guidry has changed agents. Although Guidry employed Fred Aime last year, he switched to Terry "Jaws" Miller for Gulfstream while Aime went to Oaklawn Park. Back in Kentucky, Guidry is employing Aime again.

"Jaws and I go way, way back," said Romans. "Jaws is my unofficial stable agent. I've always done business through him. Even last year when I entered horses, I'd give them to Jaws and he'd take care of it."

Guidry said Romans had informed him that if Guidry rehired Aime that he would no longer ride first call for the trainer. "I wish them all the luck in the world, I really do," said Guidry. "Hopefully things will work out for everybody."

Romans called Guidry "a great rider" and said he is not severing all ties. "I honestly don't have anything against Mark personally," he said.

Aime was the agent for Pat Day during the Hall of Fame's jockey height of domination in Kentucky and other Midwest tracks. Aime, who worked for Day for about 10 years before quitting in 1995, emerged from retirement several years ago when he went to work for Shane Sellers. Both Day and Sellers are now retired.

In Douglas, Romans is turning to a jockey who has enjoyed great success during various parts of his career. Douglas, 39, first came to the United States from Panama in 1983 and has spent lengthy stints in Florida, Southern California, and Chicago. He was by far the leading rider at Arlington Park from 2001 to 2004.

Easy breeze for Balance

Balance tuned up for her role as the odds-on favorite for the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes on Sunday with an easy breeze Wednesday morning at Keeneland. Under exercise rider Diego Sanchez, Balance went a half-mile in 51 seconds over a fast track.

Balance, with Victor Espinoza to ride, is one of at least seven 3-year-old fillies likely for the 1 1/16-mile Ashland. The other expected starters are Bushfire, Itty Bitty Pretty, Performing Diva, Saratoga Drive, Sweet Sugaree, and Wait a While.

Pletcher loaded for bear

As good a Keeneland meet as Todd Pletcher had last spring, he might have an even better one this year. Pletcher, the Eclipse Award-winning trainer the last two years, has increased his representation in Kentucky this year, having filled 40 stalls at Keeneland and another 36 at Churchill Downs. He has starters in six of the nine opening-day races.

In 2005, Pletcher set a spring-meet record by sending out 16 winners for his first Keeneland title. The record for most wins at a Keeneland meet (22) was set in the fall of 1989 by Pletcher's former boss, D. Wayne Lukas.

* Keeneland is wasting absolutely no time in hosting the first 2-year-old race of the year in Kentucky. Traditionally carded as the second or third race on opening day of the spring meet, the first "baby" race instead will serve as the meet opener. A full field of 12 colts will travel 4 1/2 furlongs.

* New York-based trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. plans to have a stable at Churchill following the Derby, said Churchill racing secretary Doug Bredar.

"Rick requested 20 stalls, and we gave him 14," said Bredar. "He said he could work with that." This will be the first time that Dutrow has had a Kentucky string.

* Trainer Ken McPeek, back from his self-imposed hiatus from training, has been making the daily commute from his Louisville home to train a 22-horse string at Keeneland. McPeek is renovating a Lexington training center that eventually will serve as his primary base. "We should be able to move in by late May," said McPeek, who turned over most of his stable last July to his then-assistant, Helen Pitts.

* The Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile, to be run next Friday at Keeneland, is shaping up a particularly tough race. Artie Schiller, winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile last October, is expected to make his 5-year-old debut against at least two other Grade 1 winners, Good Reward and Honor in War.

* Easily the most notable renovation at Keeneland for this meet is in the first-floor Equestrian Room, a former outdated dining facility that now boasts every modern convenience a horseplayer could ask for, including flat-screen televisions and self-service wagering terminals. "We spent a pretty penny on redoing the Equestrian Room," said Rogers Beasley, Keeneland director of racing. "It's fabulous."

* Television Games Network will have a full production crew at Keeneland on Friday and Saturday. Todd Schrupp, Simon Bray, Jill Byrne, and retired jockey Gary Stevens will provide commentary.

* Retired trainer Edwin L. Davis, 68, died at his Louisville home March 29. Services were held last weekend.

At a glance: Keeneland

RACING SCHEDULE: 15 days; Friday through April 28; dark Mondays, Tuesdays, and April 16 (Easter Sunday).

ADMISSIONS: Grandstand, $3; seating additional. Clubhouse, private.

PARKING: General parking, free; valet, private.

LOCATION: Six miles west of downtown Lexington on U.S. 60.

POST TIMES: 1:15 p.m. Eastern

PHONE: (859) 254-3412 or (800) 456-3412.

INTERNET: keeneland.com

2006 RACING schedule

Fri.,April 7Transylvania (G3)3YO1 mile (T)$150,000
Sat.,April 8Ashland (G1)3YO F1 1/16 miles500,000
Sun.,April 9Lafayette3YO6 furlongs100,000
Wed.,April 12Madison (G2)F&M, 4YO & Up7 furlongs200,000
Thur.,April 13Beaumont (G2)3YO F7 furlongs, 184 ft.250,000
Fri.,April 14Maker's Mark Mile (G2)4YO & Up1 mile (T)250,000
Fri.,April 14Shakertown (G3)3YO & Up5 1/2 furlongs (T)100,000
Sat.,April 15Blue Grass (G1)3YO1 1/8 miles750,000
Sat.,April 15Commonwealth B.C. (G2)3YO & Up7 furlongs400,000
Sat.,April 15Jenny Wiley (G2)F&M, 4YO & Up1 1/16 miles (T)200,000
Wed.,April 19DoubledogdareF&M, 4YO & Up1 1/16 miles100,000
Thur.,April 20 Forerunner3YO1 1/8 miles (T)100,000
Fri.,April 21Royal Chase/Spt. of Kings (NSA-G1)4YO & Up2 1/2 miles (h)150,000
Sat.,April 22Lexington (G2)3YO1 1/16 miles325,000
Sat.,April 22Giant's CausewayF&M, 3YO & Up5 1/2 furlongs (T)100,000
Sun.,April 23Appalachian3YO F1 mile (T)100,000
Wed.,April 26Bewitch (G3)F&M, 4YO & Up1 1/2 miles (T)100,000
Thur.,April 27Ben Ali (G3)4YO & Up1 1/8 miles150,000
Fri.,April 28Elkhorn (G3)4YO & Up1 1/2 miles (T)200,000