Dennis’ moment may finally have arrived.
The super-fast colt probably will go off as the favorite in the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park, and may well be the horse the aging Albaugh has waited a lifetime for.
The family purchased the colt by two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow for $400,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga sale of selected yearlings in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Jason Loutsch, racing manager, named the prospect after his father-in-law when the youngster began to show potential.
“It’s kind of nice to name the horse after Dennis after all he’s done for our family and our stable,” Loutsch said. “It’s exciting for him and he’s having fun with it, so it’s even more special.”
Loutsch had been hoping the right horse would come along to give him that name.
“They actually surprised me with it,” Albaugh said, “and then they didn’t tell me how good he was when he started working out. When I first got aware of the horse, I was extremely excited about it.”
Dennis’ Moment broke his maiden in electrifying fashion, dusting the competition by a staggering 19 ¼ lengths in a seven-furlong cakewalk at Ellis Park on July 27. He reiterated his quality in the Sept. 14 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. Irad Ortiz Jr. geared him down in the final strides of that 1 1/16-mile, Grade 3 contest with an eye toward the always-salty Juvenile.
“I would almost compare this to an NFL team heading into Foxboro and taking on [Bill] Belichick and Tom Brady with their Super Bowl rings,” Albaugh said. “We’re going up to Baffert’s place and taking him on, and I think we’ve got the horse that can do it.”
Dennis’ Moment is working like a horse capable of getting the job done for Dale Romans, his well-respected trainer. He was the fastest of 42 workers at five furlongs on Oct. 11 with a time of :58.80. Even though steps were taken to slow him down a tad, he zipped five furlongs in :58.60 a week later, swiftest of 65 at the distance.
“It’s just so easy for him,” Romans said.
Albaugh Family Stable has advanced to the Juvenile with impressive regularity. Brody’s Cause took third in 2015. Not This Time was a fast-closing second the following year. Hollywood Star and Free Drop Billy finished sixth and ninth, respectively, in 2017.
Loutsch’s level of excitement has never been higher than it is now.
“We’ve been very fortunate with some good horses, but this horse is doing things I haven’t seen as far as his athletic ability, how he does things, how he handles himself,” the racing manager said. “He’s so mature-looking as a 2-year-old, and he’s done so many great things.”
Albaugh struggles to contain his excitement.
“I’ve been talking to the trainer every other day. I’ve never talked to him so much,” he said. “He’s extremely excited. The horse just keeps getting better and better all the time and then, during the workouts, they’ve got to hold him back. He just wants to keep going.”
The connections are also painfully aware of how fleeting success can be after Not This Time, who meant so much to them as a homebred, proved to be a shooting star.
“Not This Time could have been any kind of horse,” Loutsch said.
The brilliance Not This Time flashed in the Juvenile was never to be seen again. He had to be retired to Taylor Made with a soft-tissue injury to his right foreleg. Loutsch believes so much in the Not This Time as a stallion that the family retained a 50% interest.
Loutsch will never forget the call he got from Romans with news of an injury and then the call he made to Albaugh.
“That was a very tough call for me to take and a tough phone call for me to make to my father-in-law to explain to him what happened. We had just run a huge race, and now we had to retire him,” he recalled.
Albaugh struggled to absorb the news, understanding that his Kentucky Derby dream was shattered. “It was a sick feeling that I had for several days,” he said.
Then he realized it was not his time, not his moment. Perhaps it is now.