Trainer Dale Romans is having the kind of year that any conditioner would love to have. The Kentucky native will continue his high- flying season Saturday afternoon when he sends out his two best 3-year-olds.
In about a 15-minute span, Romans will have Dullahan and Silver Max spring from starting gates in two important stakes races just four weeks before the Breeders' Cup World Championships.
Dullahan, probably the best 3-year-old in training, will return to the turf for the $400,000 Jamaica Stakes at Belmont Park. The colt is the 4-5 morning line favorite in the eight-horse field for the 1 1/8-mile grass race.
"The Jamaica is one of the last 3-year-old races of the year, and the 1 1/8- miles opens up a lot of options," Romans said. "It's easier going longer, from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/2 miles or 1 1/4 miles, but we could also go a mile."
Owned by Donegal Racing, Dullahan defeated older horses on Aug. 26 in the $1 million Pacific Classic, including leading handicap horse Game On Dude, who finished second. That effort was on a synthetic surface, the only kind the colt seems to win on.
"This will be his first time on the turf where he's 100 percent," Romans said. "As a 2-year-old, he hadn't really turned the corner, and the Palm Beach (on March 11) was his first start off a layoff. I'm kind of anxious to see what he does."
Dullahan was second in the Palm Beach just four weeks before claiming the Blue Grass Stakes on Keeneland's artificial main track. He broke his maiden at Keeneland last year in the Breeders' Futurity.
During the Triple Crown series, the colt was third in the Kentucky Derby and seventh in the Belmont Stakes after missing the Preakness. Making the Pacific Classic win even more eye opening was Dullahan's fifth-place finish in the Haskell Invitational the previous month.
Winning the Jamaica may not be as important as capturing the Pacific Classic or Blue Grass Stakes, but an impressive victory over fellow 3-year-olds will put Dullahan in position to be voted the 2012 Eclipse Award as divisional champion.
Shortly after the Jamaica, Romans will turn his attention to Keeneland for the $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile, where Silver Max will take on older horses for the first time. The 3-year-old turf specialist has had only three races on other surfaces, with all seven career victories on the lawn.
Owned by Mark Bacon and Dana Wells. Silver Max won the Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland in the spring, beginning a five-stakes winning streak that included victories in the American Turf, Arlington Classic, Oliver Stakes and Virginia Derby.
As a turf runner, Silver Max is in the difficult position of having not run in any of the Triple Crown races. In order for him to gain Eclipse Award consideration, he will have to win Saturday and then a Breeders' Cup race.