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Many Options for Polytrack Lover Dullahan

Dullahan captures the 2012 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

On the morning after Dullahan ran down Game On Dude to win Del Mar’s Grade 1 Pacific Classic by a half-length on Sunday, trainer Dale Romans discussed the numerous options he has with the 3-year-old Donegal Racing color-bearer.

All of Dullahan’s three career wins have come in Grade 1 races contested over Polytrack: the  2011 Breeders’ Futurity for 2-year-olds, the 2012 Blue Grass for 3-year-olds at Keeneland and the Pacific Classic over older horses. Dullahan has placed in a pair of graded stakes in two starts on the turf and is 0-0-2 in five starts on the dirt, including a third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.

With that in mind, Romans said he and Donegal President Jerry Crawford have no specific plans for Dullahan’s next start, with much depending on what Breeders’ Cup race they select as a long-term target. Romans mentioned Belmont Park’s Grade 1, $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational for 3-year-olds and up at 1 ½ miles on September 29 and the Grade 1, $400,000 Jamaica for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on October 6 as options.

“I don’t know if we’ll run in the [Breeders’ Cup] Classic,” said Romans. “If it’s [my decision], I’ll try him on turf next, and decide if he wants to go a mile and a half. Either the Joe Hirsch or the Jamaica would be good, but if we want to get the mile and a half, the Joe Hirsch would be the one. There’s [the Presque Isle Mile on synthetic on September 7], but it’s only a mile.”

Romans also floated out long-range possibilities such as the Group 1, $10 million Dubai World Cup next March or giving Dullahan another chance to pick up a Grade 1 on the dirt.

“I’m not going to give up on the dirt; I’ve got to get him a big win on the dirt somewhere,” said Romans. “Maybe at Churchill because he likes that track.

“I know how to get [to Dubai]. I know how to win that one,” added Romans, who took the 2005 Dubai World Cup with Roses in May. “That’s a long ways off, but it will be here before you know it. If everything went perfectly, you’d run one time, then Breeders’ Cup, a little break, one time, and then over there [in Dubai].”

Before he stresses too much over plotting a course for Dullahan, Romans said he wants to fully enjoy how Dullahan joined Best Pal (1991), General Challenge (1999), and Came Home (2002) as the only 3-year-olds to win the Pacific Classic in the race’s 22-year history.

“I thought he was going to get a piece of it, but I didn’t know if he could run down [Game On Dude],” said Romans. “Anytime a plan comes together, it’s good. We do a lot of things that don’t work out, so you’ve got to relish the ones that do. That was a little risky, going against older horses, but he does love synthetic. If you’re going to go out there, you might as well go for a big pot and a place where you can run on synthetic.”

With the Pacific Classic win, Romans has captured six Grade 1 stakes in 2012 at five different tracks in four different states. He’ll attempt to land his first Grade 1 at Saratoga in 2012 in the Forego with Shackleford, who breezed four furlongs on the main track in 50.97 seconds on Monday.

Shackleford, winner of the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap in May, is looking to make amends after finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap in the mud on August 5.

“He just went really easy, just to let him stretch his legs a little bit,” said Romans of Shackleford, who is owned by Michael Lauffer, W.D. Cubbedge, and Phillips Racing Partnership. “He went good, came back good, and looked happy. It’s hard to get him to go that slow. You have to trick him [to make him think] he’s galloping. You just ease him into it, let him get a little closer all the time, and let him think he’s galloping. He’s done enough. It’s not a matter of fitness. Just keep him sharp. As long he comes back good tomorrow [we’ll run in the Forego]. He walked good this morning after the work. If everything goes well tomorrow, we’ll be in the entries [for the Forego].”

Romans also confirmed Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame winner Quick Wit for Sunday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Saranac for 3-year-olds on the turf.


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