International Festival Barn Notes: Monday, August 13, 2012 – AM Edition
In Today's AM Notes: Romans Readies Cavalry Charge Toward Mid-America Triple; Little Mike Stretches Out for Million Bid
Dale Romans' three of a kind of Cozzetti, Finnegans Wake, and Silver Max gives the trainer a strong hand with which to become the first conditioner to sweep Arlington's Mid-America Triple with different horses when the trio goes postward on Saturday in the Grade I Secretariat Stakes, a race Romans has already won twice with Ken & Sarah Ramsey's Kitten's Joy (2004) and Donegal Racing's Paddy O'Prado (2010).
Silver Max kicked off the series with a win in the $125,000 Arlington Classic on May 26, and Cozzetti followed with a win in the Grade III American Derby on July 14 when Silver Max diverted to the Grade II Virginia Derby one week later. Finnegans Wake finished third behind Silver Max in the Virginia Derby.
"The great thing about [the Mid-America Triple] is if you have a three-year-old turf horse you can run for serious money and prestige," Romans said of the three-race series for 3-year-olds. "[Arlington] is a great course to run over, so these races are great spots to showcase a turf horse."
Silver Max, who Romans trains for Mark Bacon and Dana Wells, is the most likely favorite for the Secretariat on the strength of a six-race winning streak that includes three graded wins. The Secretariat is run at 1¼ miles, but Silver Max already answered that challenge when winning the Virginia Derby in gate-to-wire fashion. In fact, he has never been behind any horse during his current win streak.
Silver Max prepared for the Secretariat with a five-furlong move on Saturday at Churchill Downs breezing in 1:00.40, which ranked second among 20 moves at the distance that day.
"He's doing well; he's the same old 'Max' – nothing changes with him," Romans said Monday morning. "This race [the Secretariat] has been the plan for him all year, and then we'll see what happens."
Cozzetti and Finnegans Wake also both worked five furlongs on Saturday at Churchill with the former going 1:02.40 and the latter 1:01.40. None of the horses worked together, but they will get their chance to race each other on Saturday in the Secretariat.
"Each owner deserves a right to try to win this race," Romans said of saddling three horses for three different owners. "[Cozzetti and Finnegans Wake] are both accomplished horses who deserve a chance. If Silver Max stubs his toe either one could win."
Romans trains Cozzetti for Albaugh Family Stable and Finnegans Wake for Donegal Racing, but his day is not done following the Secretariat, as Romans, who turns 46 on Tuesday, also has Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes winner Little Mike for the Grade I Arlington Million.
And like his Secretariat trio, Little Mike breezed on Saturday at Churchill, going five furlongs in 1:02.60. The Million will be Little Mike's first start beyond 1 1/8 miles, but Romans thinks the son of Spanish Steps is up to the task.
"I think the 1¼ miles is a legitimate question, but I don't think he'll have a problem with it," Romans said. "This is a special race. It's one of those races everyone would like to win, and it's always been one of my favorites."
Ramon Dominguez will be in from New York to pilot Little Mike whose top wins to date have come at 1 1/8 miles, suggesting that perhaps Romans is right about Priscilla Vaccarezza's homebred answering the distance question.
All four of Romans' Arlington Million day starters will ship on Thursday from Churchill in Louisville. Riders for Romans' Secretariat starters are Shaun Bridgmohan on Cozzetti, Jose Lezcano aboard Finnegans Wake, and Robby Albarado on Silver Max.