Romans not afraid of Triple Crown spoiler role
Article via The Courier-Journal, photo by Jennie Rees
With Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah walking the morning after a workout, Keen Ice was the only horse on the track during the special time Churchill Downs is allotting to Belmont Stakes contenders.
But Keen Ice put on a show that delighted his camp, methodically working six furlongs in 1:13 3/5 under Tammy Fox. Churchill Downs' clockers caught the eighth-mile splits in 12 2/5 seconds, 24 2/5, 36 1/5, 1:00 3/5 and out the seven furlongs in 1:27 4/5. When trainer Dale Romans asked what she thought, Fox gave him the thumbs-up sign – and then said "two thumbs up" -- while coming off the track.
"I don't worry about the time, it's how they do it," Romans said. "He just keeps on improving. He keeps taking steps going forward. Like pulling up there, he couldn't blow out a match. I think the distance, the farther the best. The mile and a half shouldn't be a problem. He just has the one pace he goes, so he keeps on going."
Keen Ice was among the horses trapped in traffic coming out of the far turn and at the top of the stretch in the Derby. When he extricated himself, he finished with rush to finish seventh under Kent Desormeaux. Romans was interested in running back in the Preakness – "but I always want to run," he said -- but owner Jerry Crawford thought it more prudent to wait for the 1 ½-mile Belmont in New York. That's where American Pharoah will try to be the sport's 12th Triple Crown winner and the first since Affirmed in 1978 to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
Romans has finished third in the Belmont three times, saying, "One of these days we'll sneak up on them." When it was suggested this might be the year, he quipped, "Let 'em boo.
"I really like my chances. I mean, he's got to be better than American Pharoah, or something has to go (against him): He doesn't go a mile and a half or he's just worn down. American Pharoah is definitely head and shoulders above the rest of the class. But I know we do want to a mile and a half, and I know we're fresh and ready to run. I know he's feeling good, hitting on all cylinders. It's just a matter if he's good enough to beat him.
"And I would not be surprised if he is good enough at a mile and a half."