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Q&A: Dale Romans reflects on his banner 2012 season
By Marty McGee
Dale Romans enjoyed the best season of a 27-year training career in 2012, with Grade 1 winners such as Shackleford, Dullahan, Little Mike, and Tapitsfly. Focusing on Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Saratoga, and Gulfstream Park, Romans won 125 races last year for stable earnings of more than $11.8 million, a career high. He also was honored with the Big Sport of Turfdom Award by the Turf Publicists of America last month in Arizona.
Residence: Louisville, Ky.
Family: partner, Tammy Fox; daughter, Bailey, 19; son, Jake, 17
What’s your take on who will win the Eclipse Award for top trainer? I haven’t handicapped that race. All I know is what everyone is telling me that I’m the favorite. I’m sure [Bob] Baffert and [Todd] Pletcher will be the other nominees. Whatever the result, that’s pretty good company to be in, I’d say.
You’ve been on a new workout regimen for a few months now. How’s that going? I’m down 50 pounds. I was able to maintain during the holidays – didn’t lose any weight, but I did maintain. I hired a personal trainer (Ray Danong, strength coach for the University of Louisville basketball team), and he stays on me every day, even on the phone when I’m down here in Florida. I mostly do free weights and maybe a half-hour of cardio. I never smoked, and I barely drink, so I just need to develop other good lifestyle habits.
You’ve invested some of the money you’ve made in a new farm in the Lexington area and opened a new consignment company for horse sales: I’ve always liked the sales – both sides, the buying and selling. There are some good mares coming off the track and I thought starting the new company might be a good idea. We’ve already had some success so far. The farm is 105 acres and it’s not a money-making proposition, but we’ve got enough horses there to sustain its viability. It’s all a work in progress, as you can imagine.
What made winning your first Clark Handicap in November with Shackleford so meaningful to you? The Clark is a special race. There’s a different kind of electricity going on at Churchill that time of year, different than regular days and different than the Derby, of course. I really wanted Shackleford to go out a winner and redeem himself for the Breeders’ Cup. It really was a great win for us the way that all came together, especially since Shackleford will always be one of those special horses in my life.
Winning two Grade 1 races for Frank Jones (breeder-owner of Tapitsfly) was great, too. He’s been such a big part of my entire life. He was there when I was born and he’s still there. Winning for him was a lot more exciting for me than most people probably know. And then there were the Blue Grass, Pacific Classic, Arlington Million, the Breeders’ Cup Turf – I mean, those are races I wanted to win just once in my career, so you never expect to win them all in one year.
You’re pointing Dullahan and Little Mike to the major races in Dubai in late March. You won the World Cup in 2005 with Roses in May. Looking forward to going back there? I am, because I think I’m taking two live horses over there. It’s one of the world’s biggest stages, and if I’m going back I want to think I’ve got legitimate chances. We might run them both in the [$10 million] World Cup because Little Mike trained real well on the Poly in California last summer, although he might end up running on the grass in the $5 million race [Dubai Duty Free or the Sheema Classic]. We’ll decide as we get closer.
Dewey Square seems to have all the tools to make the Kentucky Derby in May. What do you think of his chances, and what about your other hopefuls for the 2013 Derby? Dewey Square looks like the only real contender I have right now. He has all the parts: looks, pedigree, drive, and just natural ability. There are no holes in the horse. It’s just a matter of whether he rounds into top form, the way they all have to do. The way he’s training down here, he has us real excited. I do have some other 3-year-olds doing well, and a couple of times that I made it to the Derby, it was with a horse that I had no idea in January would be able to do that. So maybe one of them will step up over the next few months.
With all you’ve got going on with about 100 horses and your businesses and your family, do you ever stop and smell the roses? I got a little breather in December, but no, not normally.
In a story we printed about you and Tammy shortly after Shackleford won the Preakness, she said you mow your own lawn, among a few innocuous fibs. Now why would she do that? That was just her being crazy. I haven’t cut grass since I was 10.
The reality show that a production company filmed about you and your family last year – will we ever get to see it? Rumors are floating around that something might come of it, but I haven’t heard anything definite. I do know it’s still in the pipeline.
Will your kids be a part of the racing business someday? We are very close. I can’t see either one of them training. Maybe Jake will want to be on the business side, but neither one likes to work in the barn. They do like coming to the races, though.
Any New Year’s resolutions? I don’t really set any, but I am going to try to keep my weight off. And win more races.
Best of luck in Eclipse Awards.
D- Pick up the hardware at Gulfstream Jan. 19th. A year for the ages. No one deserves good fortune more. Not only a great trainer but a friend to all at the racetrack...Save me a seat... WPTTB
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