07/20/2003 11:00PM

Spa may be next Romans conquest

Email

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Todd Pletcher isn't the only trainer coming into Saratoga off a record-setting meet somewhere else.

While Pletcher was saddling a record 40 winners at Belmont, Dale Romans was at Churchill Downs saddling a spring-summer meet record 39 winners in winning his fourth straight Churchill trainers' title and the first he didn't have to share with somebody else.

Romans has brought 27 head to Saratoga, a track he first began stabling at in 1993. "The first year I was here we won three races, but I had horses I could drop in for a tag," Romans said Monday morning. "I wanted to win here to prove I could. I think coming here launched my career."

Romans has developed into one of the more consistent of the Kentucky-based trainers who call Saratoga home during the summer. He has won 18 races from 131 starters the last three meetings here, including a solid 7-for-36 performance last summer.

"If we can do as well I'd be happy," Romans said. "I'd like to get to 10 - that's always been my goal."

Romans has an excellent chance to get his meet off to a good start on Wednesday, when he sends out Frost Warning in the third, a maiden race scheduled to be run at 1 3/16 miles on the turf. Frost Warning, a son of Deerhound, was beaten a neck in his turf debut on July 4 at Churchill Downs. Though Frost Warning finished a well-beaten fifth in his dirt debut, Romans felt the horse needed the race.

The threat of rain may force the race to the main track, but Romans said his horse would probably run on either surface.

Another goal of Romans is to win a stakes at Saratoga, something he has yet to accomplish. On Wednesday, he will send out longshot Secret Romance in the Grade 2 Schuylerville Stakes. Thursday, he saddles Blushing Indian, a Churchill maiden winner under Robby Albarado last out, in the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes.

"She needs to improve a little bit to compete with those fillies," Romans said of Secret Romance, "but she is improving. I thought [Blushing Indian] ran a very good race last time. I told Robby to wait and let him run down the lane. He was very professional and is getting better all the time. I know it's a tough race, but I think he'll come running at the end."

The Sanford is expected to include stakes winners Chapel Royal and Heckle, as well as Adage, Boston Brahmin, Flushing Meadows, Pretty Wild Again, and Rubi Echo.

Bird Town, Lady Tak prep for rematch

Bird Town and Lady Tak, who finished heads apart in the Grade 1 Acorn, both put in workouts Monday morning at Saratoga as they prepare to do battle again in Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 Test Stakes.

With owner Marylou Whitney looking on, Bird Town went five furlongs in 1:02.46 over the Oklahoma training track. Clockers caught her final quarter in a solid 24.64 seconds and exercise rider Maxine Correa had a difficult time pulling Bird Town up.

"I really liked the way she galloped out," trainer Nick Zito said. "Obviously, we've got the Alabama as our main objective, but we'll try to win this, too."

Bird Town has won the Kentucky Oaks at nine furlongs and the Acorn at one mile. She also won the Charon Stakes at seven furlongs during the Gulfstream meet.

Whitney said it is her intention to retire and breed Bird Town after this year, but she has not made a definite decision.

"I love raising them as much I do racing them," Whitney said. "I do believe you can race a filly too hard."

On the main track, Lady Tak drilled four furlongs in 47.64 seconds. It was her second breeze at Saratoga since arriving here July 9.

In the Acorn, Lady Tak broke from the inside and encountered traffic trouble down the backside. She came flying at the end under Jerry Bailey to just miss.

"I think the post position cost us the race, other than that I don't have any excuses," said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. "I thought Jerry rode her great."

The Test, run at seven furlongs, is also expected to attract Chimichurri, Country Romance, Final Round, Follow Me Home, House Party, Molto Vita, and possibly Halory Leigh, Alchemist, Dandy Rose, and Ebony Breeze.

Scary moments for Wonder Again

Trainer Jimmy Toner and his exercise rider Emanuel Davy had a few anxious moments Monday morning as their Grade 1-winning filly Wonder Again was completing a workout over the Oklahoma turf course Monday morning.

As Wonder Again was galloping out following her four-furlong move in 48 seconds, another horse had dumped its rider and was turning around and heading the wrong way. Davy did a zig-zag aboard Wonder Again to miss the fallen rider and avoid running into the loose horse.

"It was a bit of a hairy moment there for a little while," Toner said. "Thank God, I had somebody with some wits about him."

Aside from that, Toner was ecstatic with the workout, Wonder Again's last move before to Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Diana Handicap. According to Toner, Wonder Again got her final eighth in 11 seconds.

"She was going easy and that last eighth she eighth she just exploded," Toner said. "It was perfect."

Wonder Again went 2 for 2 at Saratoga last summer and returned to Belmont to win the Grade 1 Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap. She has raced twice this year, finishing second in the Beaugay and third in the Just a Game.

Wonder Again is one of three Grade 1 winners in the field along with Voodo Dancer and Riskaverse. She was assigned 118 pounds. The other expected starters, and their weight assignments, are Voodoo Dancer (120), Heat Haze (118), Riskaverse (118), Snow Dance (117), Owsley (116), and Quick Tip (116). Delta Princess (116) and Pertuisane (115) are possible.

Evening Attire might run Wednesday

With showers falling Monday afternoon and a threat of more rain through opening day, the status of the four turf races carded for Wednesday is unclear. If the eighth race comes off the turf, it would afford Grade 1 winner Evening Attire the chance to run in an allowance race.

Evening Attire, who won last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup, was one of five horses entered as main-track only for the nine-furlong race. Windsor Castle, a multiple graded stakes winner, is another.

Evening Attire won last year's Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap, which was rained off the turf. This year, Evening Attire has been well beaten in both the Brooklyn and Suburban handicaps. If he starts in the allowance race, Evening Attire would probably not run in the Grade 1 Whitney on Aug. 2.

"We're looking for something a little easier right now," trainer Pat Kelly said. "We've tried a couple of big races and it didn't work out. The races are tough, the weights are high; that's what happens when you have a big year the year before."

Evening Attire is 2 for 4 at Saratoga, including a victory in the Grade 2 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap. Should Evening Attire run Wednesday, he would probably have enough time off to make the Saratoga Cup, which is slated for Aug. 16.

Funny Cide drills for Haskell

Funny Cide, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, drilled six furlongs in 1:12.81 Monday morning at Belmont Park in preparation for a start in the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 3.

With Robin Smullen in the irons, Funny Cide was clocked in fractions of 24.75 seconds and 48.14. He was clocked galloping out seven furlongs in 1:26.59.

"He did everything nicely," said trainer Barclay Tagg, who said he caught Funny Cide a little faster than the clockers. "The track was kind of dead."

Funny Cide was expected to ship to Saratoga on Tuesday. He will work here either next Monday or Tuesday before shipping to Monmouth the morning of the race.