05/16/2016 11:00AM

Preakness: Romans hoping to make right kind of news Saturday

Barbara D. Livingston
Dale Romans has made plenty of headlines in his time - both on the track and for other reasons. He is hoping that this time it's his Preakness entrant Cherry Wine who makes the news.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Dale Romans has an incredible knack for making news, even when it doesn’t involve him winning a Preakness or a Dubai World Cup or a Breeders’ Cup race or upsetting a Triple Crown champion.

The latest news cycle involving Romans came when he and several passengers were injured in a frightening automobile accident in the Churchill Downs neighborhood just a few hours after the Kentucky Derby on May 7.

Romans, the driver, escaped with a badly bruised rib cage, but three friends who were in from New York had more extensive injuries: Kurt Paseka, a former racing writer, suffered a fractured pelvis; Kyle Paseka, Kurt’s sister, was left with a fractured C-7 vertebra; and John Hennegan, a filmmaker, had seven cracked ribs.

“We were actually lucky it wasn’t worse,” said Romans. “It was pretty scary.”

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For Romans, this was just the most recent in a litany of experiences that fairly beg for “The Life and Times of Trainer Dale Romans” to be written someday soon.

The 49-year-old son of the late trainer Jerry Romans Sr., he is a lifelong racetracker and Louisville resident whose first year of training, 1986, resulted in zero wins from 52 starters. His first time in the spotlight focused on his role as an assistant to his father in a controversy on the 1988 Kentucky Derby undercard, when a horse listed on the program as Briarwood won the first race and paid $71. Turns out, he was actually a horse named Blairwood.

He’s been in the headlines ever since.

In recent years alone, Romans has drawn attention for being outspoken on numerous horsemen’s issues, including his defense of race-day Lasix; for his family being the subject of a bawdy reality-show series that ultimately failed to materialize; for taking part in a barnyard brawl in which his pants famously fell to his ankles; for revealing that he long has been plagued by dyslexia; for a nasty public verbal encounter with fellow trainer Mike Maker prior to the 2014 Belmont Stakes; for saying he would forsake U.S. racing to train in Hong Kong if the opportunity presents itself; for being sued by his own brother Jerry Jr. over Dale’s alleged mismanagement of a Grade 1 winner in which Jerry had partial ownership; and for other less-absurd developments that have managed to find their way into print, videos, Internet blogs, and the gossipy world of social media.

“I don’t do tweets or Facebook or whatever else is out there,” he often says. “I hate all that stuff.”

And still, Romans somehow manages to win races on the sport’s grandest stages.

His next target: the 141st Preakness on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, where Cherry Wine will represent the Romans stable as a longshot against undefeated Nyquist and the rest.

“Any horse that breaks its maiden by nine lengths at Churchill Downs in the fall, wins a Gulfstream allowance in January, and runs third in the Blue Grass Stakes is a good horse,” said Romans, reciting the career highlights for Cherry Wine, a gray colt by Paddy O’Prado. “He deserves a chance.”

Cherry Wine didn’t get a chance in the Kentucky Derby. He was scratched as one of two also-eligibles, along with Laoban, who also will be in the Preakness gate.

In partnership with Chicago businessman Bill Pacella, Cherry Wine was co-bred and is co-owned by Frank Jones Jr., a Louisville businessman who was close friends with Jerry Romans Sr. and has mentored Dale since he was a small child. Jones and Romans can often be seen together at Churchill, Keeneland, Gulfstream Park, or a racetrack near you.

“There’s a winner-circle picture in my barn office from 1967 or 1968,” said Romans. “Frank is holding me and my brother up in the saddle.”

That lengthy friendship is part of what would make winning this Preakness so very special for Romans.

“I don’t have the words to describe what it would mean to win a race like this for Frank,” he said.

The biggest victory for the Jones-Romans team came with Tapitsfly in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita. It was the first of three BC wins for Romans, preceding his 64-1 stunner in the 2011 BC Mile with Court Vision and his 17-1 upset of the 2012 BC Turf with Little Mike.

Five years ago at Pimlico, Romans foiled the Triple Crown bid of Animal Kingdom when he saddled Shackleford to win the Preakness. That remains one of the greatest feats of his highly decorated training career, alongside winning the 2005 Dubai World Cup with Roses in May and shocking the sports world last August by sending out Keen Ice to defeat Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

“These are the days you live for in this business,” said Romans.

Besides, he added, “I’d much rather my horses make news than me.”