10/14/2001 11:00PM

Romans leader of the gap band


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Dale Romans woke up Sunday morning "feeling a little nervous," he said.

The reason: Romans thought he stood a chance to become the first trainer ever to win four races on a single day at Keeneland. At least 17 trainers have won as many as three races on a Keeneland program, but none has ever won four.

As Sunday unfolded, Romans quickly lost his shot at the record when Gone Bye Bye, one of his four starters on the day, finished fifth in the third race. But Romans went on to win with his next three horses: Sniffy ($7.40) in fourth, Endlessly ($8) in the seventh, and Dancing Missile ($30.80) in the ninth. None was favored.

"It was a great day for our gap," said Romans, referring to trainers whose horses enter and exit the gap near the 4 1/2-furlong pole at Churchill Downs during morning training hours.

Indeed it was. Fellow Churchill "gappers" Don Winfree and Greg Foley accounted for three more Sunday winners, all favorites. Winfree scored with Bettybird ($4) in the second and Tenpins ($4.60) in the fifth, while Foley won the opener with Baby G ($4.80).

On Wednesday, Romans is hoping all that momentum carries over to the featured eighth race, the $75,000 Indian Summer Stakes. He will saddle Spirit and Soul, one of five 2-year-old fillies entered in the six-furlong race. Another Churchill "gapper," Bobby Barnett, also has a contender in Bjelks, a winner of her last two starts.

Spirit and Soul "is training well and probably needed her last race, but the main reason we're running is because it was such a short field," said Romans. "It should be a good spot."

Spirit and Soul, owned by Jacks or Better Farm, has never won a stakes; the only Indian Summer starter to have done so is Vicki Vallencourt, winner of the Top Flight at Arlington last month. But it can be fairly said that the entire field has flashed stakes potential, including the likely favorites, Purple Princess and Lotta Rhythm.

Purple Princess, trained by Todd Pletcher, will make her first start since fading to fifth in the Grade 3 Sorority on Sept. 1. Purple Princess, to be ridden by Robby Albarado, was a two-time winner at the Saratoga meet.

Lotta Rhythm is unbeaten in two starts for Hal Wiggins, having won for maiden-claiming at first asking at Ellis Park, and then a Turfway allowance. Pat Day will ride.

The Indian Summer is directly preceded by a tough $65,000 allowance for older turf horses.

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