05/24/2007 11:00PM

Wiggins tops field in allowance

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Dale Romans built his local racing empire by diversifying as best he could. Romans long has had strength in virtually every division, whether his horses were young or old, male or female, and regardless of whether they ran short or long, or on dirt or turf.

But when Romans split last fall with Ken and Sarah Ramsey, his top clients of recent years, a major void was created, and suddenly Romans found himself staring at nearly 50 empty stalls. Predictably, his stable stopped winning at the accelerated rate to which he was accustomed, but Romans never panicked.

"I didn't think we were going to regroup this fast," said Romans, a perennial leading trainer at his hometown track, Churchill Downs. "But we've got a good team and we're proven, so I did think somebody would want us to train their horses."

Heading into Friday at Churchill, Romans had sent out eight winners at the spring meet, with half of them being 2-year-olds: Zakouma, Little Nick, American County, and Dr. Nick. Out of circumstance and necessity, his stable is tilted toward 2-year-olds.

"When we were filling our stalls back up, people said I've got horses for you, but they're babies," he said. "The way it's turned out, we've got better pedigrees and better opportunities for them to go on and be good ones. I was worried about not winning here because it's a tough place to win with a 2-year-old, but a lot of our horses have run well here."

Even with the new emphasis on 2-year-olds, Romans remains tough with older horses. Among his veteran contingent is Wiggins, a 7-year-old gelding who figures as a heavy favorite in Sunday's feature, a $58,500 allowance at Churchill. Wiggins, an Illinois-bred with a career bankroll of $853,745, enters off a 10-length victory in a restricted stakes last month at Hawthorne.

Rafael Bejarano has the mount on Wiggins, who will break from post 2 in a field of seven older horses in the one-mile feature. For backup, Romans also has entered M B Sea, an earner of more than $600,000. Probably the top threat to the Romans duo is Chippewa Trail, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained gelding who gave Mark Guidry his 5,000th career win in the first race on the May 4 Kentucky Oaks card.