Tom Pedulla of America’s Best Racing is interviewing prominent racing personalities as they travel the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. The opening leg of the Triple Crown will be run on May 6 at Churchill Downs. The series, which previously featured Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher, continues with Dale Romans, a Louisville native who won the Eclipse Award as the leading trainer in North America in 2012.
Romans, 50, sent Paddy O’Prado to a third-place finish in the 2010 Kentucky Derby. Shackleford took fourth the next year before winning the Preakness. Romans is on the Derby trail again this year with J Boys Echo, a convincing winner of the Gotham Stakes last Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
PEDULLA: How did you think J Boys Echo performed in the Gotham after he finished third in the Withers?
ROMANS: It wasn’t a bad race his first race (of the year). He came back in this race and did it the way he is supposed to do it.
PEDULLA: You have described him as a “project” horse. What do you mean by that?
ROMANS: He’s a little bit of a babyish horse. He’s starting to figure it out right now. He was just mentally not as mature as some of the others.
PEDULLA: What role has Tammy (Romans’ partner and assistant) played in the development of J Boys Echo?
ROMANS: I’ve said the horse is a project horse. She’s been getting on him every day and giving me a lot of good feedback.
PEDULLA: What are you leaning toward for his next start?
ROMANS: The Blue Grass (on April 8 at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky.). It’s in our backyard. I’ve got enough points (to get into the Derby). We want to see a good race, but he doesn’t have to win it. Then it’s 70 miles down the road to run for the roses.
PEDULLA: As a native of Louisville, what would it mean to win the Derby?
ROMANS: It’s important to anybody from anywhere, not just somebody from Louisville. I don’t care where you’re from. You want to win the Kentucky Derby. I want to win it as much as Steve Asmussen (from Gettysburg, S.D.) wants to win it.
PEDULLA: Where do you think J Boys Echo ranks among Derby prospects?
ROMANS: He has to be in everybody’s top 10 right now.
PEDULLA: You caught a tough break when you lost Not This Time, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up, to a career-ending injury. How hard was that?
ROMANS: To lose a horse like him it’s tough. But you have to go out there and try to find another one.
PEDULLA: Does it help that you competed in the Derby before?
ROMANS: Yeah, I think it helps. You understand how big it is for the horse industry and the press, but you still have to keep your focus on what you’re there for and train your horse.