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Anne M. Eberhardt

Romans: Medal Count His Best Derby Horse Yet

The son of Dynaformer worked a smooth five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 April 26.

Kentucky-based trainer Dale Romans is as confident as he has ever been going into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

After watching Spendthrift Farm's Medal Count  float over the Churchill Downs main track in 1:00 1/5 for five furlongs and gallop out six furlongs in 1:13 April 26, Romans said he could not find one thing to worry about regarding his colt's chances in the Run for the Roses.

"It was absolutely perfect," Romans said of the work. "I give my exercise boy, Faustino (Aguilar), a lot of credit. He never cracks under the pressure; he did exactly what I wanted. I want him to accelerate from the pole and sit there smooth and finish up good."

Medal Count comes into the Kentucky Derby off a second-place finish in the April 12 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) on the soon-to-be-removed synthetic main track at Keeneland. Despite an impressive late kick in the stretch, the son of Dynaformer—Brisquette, by Unbridled's Song, finished 1 3/4 lengths behind winner Dance With Fate.

Prior to the Blue Grass, Medal Count finished fifth in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park and then won the grade III Transylvania Stakes (moved from the turf to the Polytrack) at Keeneland, both races at 1 1/16 miles. The performance in the Fountain of Youth has raised the question of whether Medal Count prefers a synthetic or even a turf surface, which is a common preference among the offspring of Dynaformer. Romans dismissed this notion.

"They talk about the Polytrack, but he ran at Keeneland at 2 and got beat. Not because of the surface but because his head was not in the game," Romans said at Churchill. "He has trained well on this racetrack his entire life. He is ready for it."

The early splits during Medal Count's work were :12 3/5, :24 2/5, :36 1/5, and :48 1/5. He galloped out seven furlongs in 1:26 3/5 and a mile in 1:42 1/5.

"I have a profile in my mind of what a Derby horse is, and he fits that perfectly," Romans said of his chances with his fifth Derby starter since 2006. "(Medal Count) has the pedigree, the running style, the size to handle himself when he gets bounced around, and the speed to get himself out of trouble. He is as good a horse that I have brought to the Derby."

Romans finished third in the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Paddy O'Prado, fourth with Shackleford  in 2011, and third with Dullahan in 2012. Medal Count will be ridden in the Derby by Robby Albarado, who's been aboard his last two starts.