Local Hero

Goshen training facility
produces Eclipse Award finalist

Trainer Romans attends ceremony
for his horse Shackleford

By Janell Oliver
Special to RoundAbout

GOSHEN, Ky. (February 2012) – Trophies, medals and garlands always impress the masses, but the highest honor that can be bestowed upon an athlete in the sport of thoroughbred racing is the Eclipse Award.
On Jan. 16, race fans watched in anticipation as the 41st annual Eclipse Awards dinner was televised live from the Beverly Hilton Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. The day before, movie stars in dazzling designer gowns and flashy tuxedos flooded the very same premises while attending the Golden Globe Awards.
Doing his best to dress in celebrity fashion was humble trainer Dale Romans, owner of “the old Van Berg place,” a thoroughbred training facility off Liberty Lane in Goshen, Ky.


Photo courtesy of Kacy Toler

Shackleford winning the
Preakness Stakes last year.

“I tried to dress the part,” said Romans, whose usual attire is comprised of baseball caps, windbreakers and blue jeans.
Surrounded by family and friends, Romans attended the prestigious ceremony to represent his horse, Shackleford, voted a top three finalist for champion 3-year-old-male.
While popular interest in horse racing generally wanes after Kentucky Derby festivities end, 3-year-old horses continue to compete long after the First Saturday in May is over.
After finishing fourth in the 137th Run for the Roses, Shackleford only continued to impress fans with his consistent, gutsy performances. Fans became familiar with his front-running, pace-setting style. Two weeks later, Shackleford proved he was the better horse at a shorter distance and stole the $1 million Preakness Stakes from late-closing Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.
The remainder of Shackleford’s season included finishing second in the $1 million Haskell Invitational in July, second in the $500,000 Indiana Derby in October, and second in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November. That gave him career earnings of $1,985,803.
Would that be enough for a horse who first stepped foot on a six furlong training track in Oldham County to take the Eclipse title for 3-year-old-champion?
It wouldn’t be the first time a horse from Oldham County – from that very same training track, in fact – took the title. Twenty-five years earlier, Alysheba, trained by legendary horseman Jack Van Berg, won the Eclipse award for 3-year-old-champion.
In terms of the Eclipse awards, could history repeat itself? Later that evening, after the votes were released and the winners announced, Shackleford ranked third behind Animal Kingdom and Caleb’s Posse.
Even though Animal Kingdom didn’t compete in races after a minor injury sidelined him in May of 2011, his win in the Kentucky Derby held mega weight with the voters. And Caleb’s Posse, ranked second, had one more Grade 1 stakes race to his credit.
“We just needed one more Grade 1. One more and he would’ve won,” said Romans.
The championship categories are voted upon by members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association.
Jesus Castanon, Shackleford’s jockey, was disappointed in the results for 3-year-old-champion.
“I know I’m biased but I have an entire following of Facebook fans who are upset,” said Castanon. “So many people wrote on my wall, wishing him luck. In my heart, I know he was the best 3-year-old last year. He ran in all the tough races. He was the most consistent. He may not have won every race but he was always close.”
Shackleford, owned by Michael Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge, was Castanon’s first Kentucky Derby mount after 22 years of riding in the sport.
Romans plans to kick off Shackleford’s 2012 campaign in the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 11.
“I think he’ll come back stronger than ever. Who knows? This time next year we could win champion-older-male,” said Romans.

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