ARCADIA, Calif. (Friday, Oct. 25, 2019) — Each week Albaugh Family Stables’ electrifying 2-year-old colt Dennis’ Moment seems to work faster while making the exercise look easier on the lead-up to the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.
Right after Dennis’ Moment worked a half-mile under exercise rider Tammy Fox, trainer Dale Romans wondered aloud what the time was, saying that the colt looked like he was going on the slow side. That would have been fine, but in the case of Dennis’ Moment, what constitutes slow is relative. As it turned out, Dennis’ Moment was clocked cruising a half-mile in 46.60 seconds, the fastest of 51 workouts at the distance Friday morning at Santa Anita, where the average time was 49.20.
“I just wanted her to go along comfortable and easy,” Romans said later. “And that’s what he did. I mean, he went fast, but you could just watch and tell he was well within himself doing it. It doesn’t take anything out of him.
“Normally I’d have gone five-eighths with him. But I didn’t want him to go as fast — he went :58 two weeks in a row (at Churchill Downs). So we just went a half and let him gallop-out the five-eighths to try to trick him a little bit to slow it down to a minute and change on the gallop out. But he did everything right. He’s a hard horse to train because he does things so easy. You don’t know if you’re doing enough because it’s nothing, doesn’t take anything out of him to do it.”
Head clocker Dane Nelson caught Dennis’ Moment working the first quarter-mile in 23.40 seconds, with the second quarter-mile went in 23.20. He galloped out the five-eighths of a mile in a minute flat. By way of comparison, the fastest of 27 five-furlong works was 1:00.60 Friday.
“Galloped out strong — was getting aggravated with me because I had to pull him up — but at a comfortable pace,” Fox said. “He’s striding out really good, worked great. That Ferrari came out in him today.
“He’s so strong underneath you and has such a long stride. You don’t want to take that away from a horse. So as long as he’s going comfortable, at a quick speed, I don’t mind, and I don’t think Dale minds either…. He wasn’t blowing a bit. I was blowing more than he was.”
Romans, whose most recent of three Breeders’ Cup victories came at Santa Anita in 2012 with Little Mike in the Turf, was atypically subdued after the work uncorked by Dennis’ Moment, whose reputation exploded with a 19 1/4-length romp in an Ellis Park maiden race that was followed by a powerful victory in Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Iroquois.
“The stress-level has just gone through the roof, to tell you the truth, because I’ve never come into a Breeders’ Cup race with so much confidence in a horse,” Romans said. “It’s a little different feeling. Everything has gone so well, and he’s just been push-button. He’s such a pleasure to be around.”
Dennis’ Moment is expected to be the tepid Juvenile favorite over the Bob Baffert-trained Eight Rings, Santa Anita’s Grade 1 American Pharoah winner whose lone defeat in three starts came when he lost his rider in the Del Mar Futurity. The Brendan Walsh-trained Maxfield, who won Keeneland’s Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity in his second start, also is expected to get a lot of play.
“It sure looks like a good bunch of 2-year-olds this year,” Romans said. “We’re fortunate enough to have one of the best of the group, but top to bottom, this is a good field of horses.”
Unless it’s a longshot, the Juvenile winner can expect to become the early favorite for the 2020 Kentucky Derby, the race Romans covets above all others, especially as a lifelong Louisvillian.
“You have to try to not think about it,” he said. “I’ve gotten to the Derby a lot of different ways. Getting a second in the Blue Grass (to make the field late), or we’d gotten our points early and knew we were going to get in. It’s always different. After you get past next Friday, we’ll start thinking about the First Saturday in May and how to get there.”
Romans thought he’d be there with Not This Time, another horse owned by Dennis Albaugh and Jason Loutsch, Albaugh’s son in law and racing manager. As with Dennis’ Moment, Not This Time also lost his debut at Churchill Downs (although in the case of Dennis’ Moment, the rider came off shortly after the start), followed by a blowout win at Ellis Park and victory in the Iroquois. Not This Time ran huge to finish a rallying second by a neck in the 2016 Juvenile, also at Santa Anita. The winner, Classic Empire, wound up 2-year-old champion and went on to take the Arkansas Derby. Not This Time was injured in the race and retired to a stud career.
“He’s a very similar horse, similar type of horse,” Romans said, comparing to two Albaugh horses. “Not This Time had the same aura about him, of greatness. And his babies have it, and it looks like he’s going to be a top sire. But he got injured in the race, and we never got to see the best of him, I don’t think. I think he’d have been an even better 3-year-old. This colt is coming into it the same way, and he’s even doing things Not This Time couldn’t do: Working in 46 and looking like he’s galloping.
“It is the ultimately do-over, yes it is. To train a 2-year-old champion would be special for anybody. It’s something I’d always would have liked to have done. I’ve only had one champion in my life, Kitten’s Joy. You know, we’re seven days away from settling who is 2-year-old champion, and we feel pretty good about our position.”