07/24/2003 12:00AM

Romans, McGee send pair of closers


Dale Romans will be tending to his 27-horse stable at Saratoga, and Paul J. McGee will be in Chicago to saddle Honor in War for the Arlington Handicap. But both trainers will take time Saturday to focus on Ellis Park, in Henderson, Ky., where each has a major contender in the 34th running of the $100,000 Don Bernhardt Stakes.

Romans will be represented by Dubai Sheikh, a 4-year-old colt who hit peak form at the recent spring meet at Churchill Downs, where Romans was easily the leading trainer. Dubai Sheikh, owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, raced four times in allowance company at Churchill, winning twice and also posting a second and a third.

Dubai Sheikh, a Kentucky-bred by Kayrawan, "started getting good in Florida last winter," Romans said Thursday from Saratoga. "He really put it all together at Churchill, ran some good races. I expect him to run well Saturday.

"As long as he runs big, we'll probably bring him up here and maybe start thinking about one of the bigger races here."

The 6 1/2-furlong distance of the Bernhardt seems ideally suited to Dubai Sheikh, who typically launches a furious run from just off the pace.

Likewise, the McGee-trained Twilight Road, who has earned more than $380,000, also tends to do his best when reeling in the front-runners.

A 6-year-old gelding owned by Donamire Farm, Twilight Road is a graded winner who also ran well at Churchill, winning a May 23 prep race for the Aristides Handicap before finishing sixth, beaten a mere 1 1/2 lengths, in the June 21 Aristides.

In all, a field of eight was entered in the Bernhardt, with Devil's Dust and Shah Jehan likely to be the horses to cut out the early pace. Devil's Dust, trained by Ron Moquett, finished second to Dubai Sheikh in a July 3 allowance at Churchill, while Shah Jehan, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, has been racing at Arlington Park, where he won a June 21 allowance race.

The rest of the field is Big Talkin Man, Chindi, Second Tuesday, and Sterling Gold.

Jockey Tony D'Amico, who rides Sterling Gold, will be going for a remarkable fourth straight win in the Bernhardt, having won in 2000 aboard Proven Cure and in 2001 and 2002 on Dash for Daylight.

The Don Bernhardt, named for the late sports editor of the Evansville Courier, is carded as the 10th of 11 races. First post is 12:40 p.m. Central.