Dale Romans got his first taste of classic success when he saddled Shackleford to win the 2011 edition of the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). The trainer is back at Maryland’s Pimlico Race Couse again this year, hoping to pick up another win in the second leg of the Triple Crown May 19 with the Albaugh Family Stables’ Cozzetti.
“We have a legitimate, live longshot,” said Romans May 18 of the 3-year-old gray/roan colt. “He couldn’t be training better and he couldn’t be healthier. He’s also fresh, so he’s got that edge. This is a very good horse doing good at the right time and if he’s good enough, he can win.”
In 2011, Romans was on top of the world after Shackleford held off the late-charging Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom to take the Preakness by three-quarters of a length in an upset.
“It was an amazing experience, the time of my life,” Romans said. “Everything went well when we got here. Pimlico treats you so good and it’s a lot of fun to be with the same barn with everybody. After the race, there was a party at the barn and we must have had a thousand people come by and pet Shackleford. At first I started trying to keep people away, but he was liking it, so we just let them keep coming. He knew he had done something special and it was a magical weekend.”
Shackleford had finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs after setting the pace. He came into the Run for the Roses off a runner-up finish in the Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park.
“I wasn’t surprised that he won because he is a phenomenal racehorse,” Romans said. “But I was shocked that my stable could come that far and win a classic race. The way that we had developed from back when we were running cheap claiming horses was a bigger surprise.”
Because of Shackleford’s Preakness success, Romans feels less pressure this time around.
“It’s helped me relax a little bit more,” he said. “We’re more under the radar this year. There’s not as much to lose and there’s a lot to gain.”
Cozzetti is 30-1 on the Preakness morning line. In his three outings so far this year, he finished fourth in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulfstream, third in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) at Tampa Bay Downs, and fourth in the April 14 Arkansas Derby (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park.
“I think that race (the Arkansas Derby) was a little better than it looks on paper because he kind of lost his focus with Secret Circle going all over the racetrack in front of him,” Romans said. “He should have been second, which would have put him in the Kentucky Derby (based on earnings).”
In his last work prior to shipping to Pimlico for the Preakness, Cozzetti turned in a bullet effort, covering five furlongs in :58 4/5 at Churchill Downs with Romans’ long-time partner, Tammy Fox, aboard.
“He was a lot more into his work,” Fox said. “His focus was a lot better and he was stronger underneath me. He did everything on cue. I was very pleased with the work.”
Cozzetti will break from the far outside post in the Preakness’ field of runners. Jose Lezcano will ride the Cozzene–Lemon Drop Cello colt.
“On paper it looks like Bodemeister goes to the lead and the rest of us try to catch him from the quarter pole,” Romans said. “If that’s the case and we let him go slow enough, he’s going to be hard to beat. You can see where everybody is coming from on Bodemeister being the (morning line) favorite. But don’t throw out the Derby winner (I'll Have Another ) too quick. He ran a huge race. I know Bodemeister went fast, but he was out there by himself and didn’t have any traffic or any problems and he still got run down by a good horse.”
Romans also had another piece of advice.
“Let’s don’t throw out the Arkansas Derby’s fourth finisher too quick either,” the trainer said. “I know Cozzetti is jumping into deep water, but I think he can swim in deep water.”