Trainer Dale Romans, who has already has established a personal record for
single-season North American earnings in 2012, has confirmed Little Mike and
Finnegans Wake for Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic
Invitational and Dullahan primed for the Grade 1, $400,000 Jamaica Handicap on
The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational will be the first start at 1 1/2 miles for both the five-year-old Little Mike and three-year-old Finnegans Wake, with the latter also set to take on older horses for the first time.
Owned by Priscilla Vaccarezza, Little Mike will attempt to carry his speed an additional quarter mile after leading the Grade 1, 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million from gate to wire on August 18. The gelding posted a 1:03 2/5 five-furlong breeze on Saturday at Churchill.
"(The distance is) a question mark," Romans said. "It always is whenever you try something for the first time, but he's done everything we've asked him to do. Pace is the race. That's the key with him."
Both Finnegans Wake, second in the Grade 1 Secretariat on August 18 at Arlington Park, and Dullahan, winner of the Grade 1 Pacific Classic over older horses on August 26 at Del Mar, race for Donegal Racing and turned in Saturday breezes at Churchill Downs. Finnegans Wake went six furlongs in 1:15 4/5, with Dullahan going five furlongs in 1:02 1/5.
Romans considered running Dullahan in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic before opting to send Finnegans Wake to the race. Instead, Dullahan will compete in the Jamaica, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for three-year-olds, one week later.
"It was less about timing (to the Breeders' Cup in November) for Dullahan than it was about giving Finnegans Wake the chance to try a mile and a half," Romans said of the decision. "I think (Finnegans Wake is) going to relish the distance."
Dullahan, a three-time Grade 1 winner on Polytrack, will be making his first start on grass in the Jamaica since finishing second in the Grade 3 Palm Beach in March.
"By sending Dullahan to the Jamaica, he still gets to try the turf while getting to stay against straight three-year-olds," Romans noted.
The main threat to Romans' duo in the Joe Hirsch is Point of Entry, a winner
of four straight who comes off back-to-back Grade 1 wins in the Man o' War and
Sword Dancer Invitational.
On Sunday, the Shug McGaughey trainee covered a half-mile in :50 in a visually impressive breeze around the "dogs" over Belmont's good turf course.
"I was especially happy with the way he finished up," McGaughey said of the Dynaformer colt.
Trainer Chad Brown's dynamic pair of Dream Peace and Zagora tuned up for Saturday's Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational by firing a bullet on the lawn. The stablemates negotiated five grassy furlongs in an identical 1:01 2/5.
French Group 2 winner Dream Peace exits a strong second to Winter Memories in the Grade 1 Diana on July 28. Zagora, a flat third when trying to defend her title in the Diana, came right back to set a course record in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa on August 25.