Dennis’ Moment has been a “buzz” horse since before the son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow ran for the first time at Churchill Downs. But he got squeezed in traffic shortly after breaking from the gate, stumbled and unseated his rider. He returned at Ellis Park with a 19 1/4-length victory, which he followed up back at Churchill Downs’ by taking the Grade 3 Iroquois by 1 3/4 lengths over Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contender Scabbard.
By Jennie Rees
The goal of the electrifying 2-year-old Dennis’ Moment’s timed workout Friday morning at Churchill Downs was to go a little slower than the prior week’s 58 4/5 seconds, if possible. It wasn’t. With regular exercise rider Tammy Fox in the saddle, Albaugh Family Stables’ standout colt cruised the five furlongs in 58 3/5 seconds in his penultimate work before the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park.
“Crazy, crazy good. Spooky good,” Fox said, adding of trainer Dale Romans, “Went a little faster than Dale wanted, but it was a comfortable quick. I had my feet in the dashboard all the way around there. He’s just a freak.”
Churchill Downs’ clockers caught Dennis Moment in eighth-mile splits of 11 4/5 seconds, 23 2/5, 35, 46 4/5, with every furlong in the body of the work going in under 12 seconds, followed by gallop-out times of 1:11 2/5 for six furlongs and 1:25 4/5 for seven-eighths of a mile.
“We were going to try to go for a little bit slower, but fast horses work fast,” Romans said. “He just did it so easy. The 58 doesn’t make them win. It’s the ability to go 58 that makes them win, and he’s got that ability. It’s just so easy for him.”
Outrider Greg Blasi on his pony accompanied Fox and Dennis’ Moment to the racetrack pole from which the work was to begin. He also made sure Dennis’ Moment pulled up after the work and came off the track without incident.
“The outrider breaks Tammy off because we wanted to make sure he didn’t get too strong going to the pole,” Romans said. “We were trying to trick him today and just break off right on top of the pole and go a little bit easier to start. But he’s too smart. He knew what we were doing and he just started rolling. The outrider just as a favor walked him off as a precaution. You get this close, you don’t want anything going wrong.”
Dennis’ Moment will have a walk day Saturday and jog early Sunday morning, being completely checked out both days before getting on the Tex Sutton equine charter later Sunday morning from Louisville to Ontario, California. Romans said several days of galloping at Santa Anita Park will give them the idea of how deep the track is and how that might impact a final workout seven days before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
“He’ll probably have another nice workout there,” Romans said. “I mean, we’re not going to be able to slow him down. I may shorten him up, though, just go a half-mile.”
Asked if was more excitement or nerves two weeks before the Breeders’ Cup, Romans said, “all the above. You know, it’s the first one I’ve had at this level to go into it as the favorite. Not This Time was close, but it’s a whole different type of pressure.”
Not This Time, also owned by Albaugh Family Stables, took the same path to the Breeders’ Cup: beaten first start, impressive wins in an Ellis Park maiden race and Churchill Downs’ Iroquois. Not This Time narrowly was beaten in the Juvenile by champion Classic Empire, was injured in the race and never ran again.
Romans, a lifelong Louisvillian, is the career win leader at Churchill Downs. How much is he thinking about next May’s Kentucky Derby? “Not as much as you’d think,” he said. “The Breeders’ Cup stands alone on its own. It’s a great race for making stallions, and that’s what we’re all in the game for. Right now we’re very focused on the next two weeks. After that, then the Road to the Derby really sets in.”
Romans could have a second Breeders’ Cup horse in Mr Freeze, last year’s West Virginia Derby winner who won Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Ack Ack in his second start off a seven-month layoff. Mr Freeze, who will work Sunday morning, could go in the Breeders’ Cup’s $1 million Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile, where he would face Omaha Beach, the Arkansas Derby winner who was the Kentucky Derby favorite before sidelined by a breathing obstruction.
“We’ll talk to (owner) Jim Bakke about it,” Romans said. “I saw yesterday where it was announced that Omaha Beach is running in the Dirt Mile. I don’t know. We’ll have to talk about it, to see if we really want to go or not. But he’s doing good enough to go.”
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