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Derby Contender

Goshen horse connections
hope to donate to disabled jockeys

Romans-trained Dullahan
has emerged as favorite

By Janell Oliver
Contributing Writer

GOSHEN, Ky. (May 2012) – Never before has the garland of roses seemed so attainable for Goshen-based horse trainer Dale Romans. Owner of the “Old Van Berg Place” off Liberty Lane, Romans says he feels confident in his thoroughbred’s ability.
“Let me put it to you this way,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade places with anybody.”
Nor would the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, the charity designated as recipient of 5 percent of any Kentucky Derby winnings Dullahan may earn on May 5. A public statement was released April 25 making the pledge official.
The news came as a surprise to the executive director of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, Nancy LaSala. “It was self-initiated on their end. We did not already have an established relationship with Dullahan’s connections. Because our program is so low-funded and industry support is scattered, we are incredibly grateful.”

Dullahan Racing

Photo courtesy of Kacy Toler

Goshen, Ky.-trained Dullahan
surpasses favorite Hansen in the
Toyota Bluegrass Stakes on
April 14 in Lexington.

The unification of a horse’s connections for a charitable donation is rare in horse racing.
“Owners will sometimes offer donations out of their own cut of the purse, but to have all three parties agree to do it is a special case. They are setting a true example here, showing how the owner, the trainer and the jockey can all come together for a good cause,” LaSala said.
Trained by Romans, Dullahan is owned by Donegal Racing, a 24-person syndicate headed by Jerry Crawford, and will be ridden in the Kentucky Derby by jockey Kent Desormeaux.
The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund disburses money to jockeys who have suffered catastrophic injuries on the race track. LaSala said the PDJF disburses $61,000 a month toward the treatment of injured jockeys nationwide.
In another twist, Prairie Meadows Racetrack in Iowa has agreed to match the potential donation.
The total purse for the 138th Kentucky Derby Presented by YUM! Brands is $2,180,000. If Dullahan’s connections receive the 62 percent reserved for the first place horse – and Prairie Meadows Racetrack matches it – the best-case scenario is that the PDJF will receive a check for $120,000.
Romans thinks it is highly likely that LaSala will be headed to the bank. “This will be my fourth starter in the Kentucky Derby and it’s my best shot to win it,” said Romans.
Such a declaration of faith is unusual for the quiet trainer, known for his humble nature and mild manner. But after his horse’s recent performance in one of the most notable Kentucky Derby prep races in the country, confidence is soaring.
A $750,000 race, the Grade 1 Toyota Bluegrass Stakes was held in April at Keeneland Race Track in Lexington. Because the Kentucky Derby Presented by YUM! Brands only permits the top 20 graded-stakes money earners to compete, the significant purse of the Bluegrass Stakes attracts some of the stiffest competition from across the country.
On April 14, a field of 13 colts sprung out of the gate at Keeneland with hopes of obtaining enough earnings to start in the Kentucky Derby three weeks later. The heavy favorite on the card that day was the nearly-white Hansen, a $1 million earner and winner of the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes as a 2-year-old.
But Dullahan surprised many Hansen fans when he swept past the gray colt in the final yards of the homestretch and won.
A half brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, the colt certainly has the bloodlines to compete with the best of them. But as a 2-year-old, with many pairs of eyes watching his every move, Dullahan didn’t seem too impressive on a dirt surface. That is, not in comparison to his brother.
After five starts, Dullahan broke his maiden on a synthetic surface, polytrack. His only remarkable performance before that was on turf.
As is all too often the case in horse racing, race fans watched the chestnut colt with a cool curiosity, waiting to see if he would measure up to his brother. After his performance in Lexington, Dullahan has now emerged as a likely favorite.
“People are always trying to knock a horse for not running well on one surface or another. But I never thought he didn’t run well on the dirt. He just didn’t blow anybody away. Sometimes it takes time,” said Romans.
With earnings now of $872,091, Dullahan has earned his ticket to the Kentucky Derby. It will be his first time on the dirt in six months. If Dullahan wins, his dam, Mining My Own, will be the first ever broodmare to produce two Kentucky Derby winners.
“So much is on the line if Dullahan wins,” LaSala said. “I guess we just have to wait and see.”
While the “Old Van Berg Place” in Goshen serves as Romans’ year-round back-up training center, he stables most of his horses in top condition on-location at Churchill Downs during the spring and fall meets. Familiar with the surface now for nearly two months, Romans said Dullahan is training well over the dirt.
“He moves over it beautifully and there’s no reason to think he can’t win on it,” Romans said.

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