05/23/2003 11:00PM

Will Exploit Lad run like dad?


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - For more than 30 years before he died in November 2000, Jerry Romans trained winner after winner for Louisville businessman Frank Jones Jr. Since then, Dale Romans, Jerry's son, has become the trainer for Jones, and success has continued unabated.

That theme of "like father, like son" is something that Dale Romans would enjoy seeing perpetuated Monday at Churchill Downs. Exploit Lad, by Exploit, will represent Jones and Romans in the $150,000 Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes, and if the colt can match what his sire accomplished at Churchill as a 2-year-old, then Jones and Romans could be in for a terrific summer. Exploit won the 1998 Iroquois Stakes in such sensational fashion that he became the winter-book favorite for the Kentucky Derby, although his career was ended by injury soon thereafter.

"I liked Exploit, but what I really like about him now is how many good-looking babies he's already turned out," said Romans, 36. "We've always thought a lot of this colt."

Jones paid $87,000 for Exploit Lad at the Keeneland September yearling sales last year. Last month in his debut, Exploit Lad finished sixth as the 3-1 second choice at Keeneland, but he soon redeemed himself by winning a tough maiden race on the opening weekend of the Churchill meet.

"He's come a long way in a real short time," said Romans. "I thought he ran real green at Keeneland, but he's matured a lot since then."

Romans said he would be thrilled to win a Churchill stakes race for Jones, the vice chairman of the Kentucky Racing Commission. "Frank does a lot of things for this industry, from his business with the commission, his commitment as a horse owner, and as an everyday horseplayer," said Romans. "He puts his heart and soul into the game."

Exploit Lad, with Jason Lumpkins to ride, is one of just six 2-year-olds - all of them coming off maiden wins - entered in the Kentucky BC, a Grade 3 race at 5 1/2 furlongs. Among the other probable favorites is Toin and Boin, a Golden Gear colt whose jockey, Craig Perret, is also his breeder.

The rest of the field is Cuvee, Voladero, First Money, and Another Freddy.

First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern. Because racing is being conducted on Monday, normally a dark day, Wednesday will be dark at Churchill this week.