As fans gear up for the start of another National Football League regular season, the legion of Dallas Cowboys followers rest their Super Bowl hopes on the continued development of rising star quarterback Dak Prescott, who guided them to an unexpected 13-3 season and a playoff berth in his rookie year.
Late summer is also the time when horse racing fans begin scouring the juvenile ranks for talented 2-year-olds to keep tabs on with the hopes of identifying contenders for the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November – and maybe even placing a future wager on next year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands winner.
This Sunday, one promising 2-year-old colt will bring those worlds together. Cowboy Nation will be represented at the “Pea Patch” as Dak Attack is slated to start in the $75,000 Ellis Park Juvenile at the western Kentucky track for co-owner Albaugh Family Stable and trainer Dale Romans.
Albaugh Family Stable and Romans have had success in recent years placing runners on the Road to the Triple Crown, including Brody’s Cause and J Boys Echo. This summer, Dennis Albaugh’s Iowa-based family operation has three up-and-comers trained by Romans – Free Drop Billy, Hollywood Star, and Dak Attack.
Jason Loutsch, general manager of the stable and son-in-law of Dennis Albaugh, named Dak Attack. Loutsch lives in NFC North country, but he’s been a fan of “America’s Team” since his childhood days.
“The babysitter I went to, her whole family were Cowboys fans. Back in the ‘Too Tall’ Jones days, Danny White,” he said. “Growing up, they bled Cowboys, and that’s kind of how I became a Cowboys fan. The [Minnesota] Vikings and [Chicago] Bears fans are all around here, but I went to this babysitter and they were all diehard Cowboys fans, and turned me into one.”
The passion has stayed with Loutsch, through the 1990s Super Bowl era with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin, and even through the lean recent years B.D. (Before Dak). Despite shredding SEC defenses during his time at Mississippi State, Prescott was far from a sure thing as a fourth-round draft pick. But his immediate success when called into service spurred the sort of devotion that, well, would lead a Cowboys fan to name a horse after Prescott, if given the chance.
“Dak kind of stepped in at the last minute last year and became a star, and he’s the new fan favorite,” Loutsch said. “We thought we’d name a horse after him since he took us to an unbelievable season last year. After Tony Romo went down, we were all in the dumps and Dak turned it around, so he’s the new man, I guess, and a great quarterback. And he’s also a good person, so to name a horse after somebody like that, that’s a pretty cool story.”
Loutsch’s favorite current Cowboy is tight end Jason Witten, for his Pro Bowl talent, work ethic, and for “the way he represents the organization, and Jerry Jones said he’s one of the top five men he’s ever met.”
As for Dak Attack, Loutsch said that the colt has had high expectations since Albaugh Family Stable bought him for $625,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale (his breeder, Brereton Jones’ Airdrie Stud, also kept an ownership stake in the colt). Barry Berkelhammer, who gave Dak Attack his first training over the winter in Florida, told Loutsch that the colt was a standout as he began to mature, and Loutsch said that Romans was highly impressed when he first saw Dak Attack during Kentucky Derby week at Churchill Downs.
Those opinions were confirmed when Dak Attack won his career debut at Churchill Downs on June 15, going 5 ½ furlongs on the main track and scoring by 1 ¼ lengths with an impressive stretch run. (The horse he defeated, Sporting Chance, came back to win by 2 ¼ lengths during Saratoga’s opening weekend)
Sunday’s Ellis Park Juvenile is a seven-furlong race, and Dak Attack drew the outside post position in a tough 12-horse field, with Robby Albarado named to ride. Free Drop Billy and Hollywood Star both recently ran second in graded stakes at Saratoga, and Dak Attack’s connections believe that this colt has just as much potential. Loutsch said that Dak Attack’s pedigree suggests that he’ll get better as the races get longer, as his sire (father) is 2004 Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Ghostzapper and his second dam (maternal grandmother) is 2008 champion 3-year-old filly Proud Spell.
“We think he’s going to be able to stretch out,” Loutsch said. “Hopefully, he continues to get better, and we can get some good races in and qualify for the Breeders’ Cup, and then go down to Florida and have a great winter.”
Editor’s note: Dak Attack won the Ellis Park Juvenile by three lengths on Aug. 20 to improve to 2-for-2 in his career. Trainer Dale Romans told Ellis Park's Jennie Rees that the colt is "doing everything his namesake did. He's a rookie like Dak was last year, yet he's the star of our show." Loutsch and Romans said that the colt may make his next start in the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland in October as a prep for the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile.