"Lucky" Dale Romans looks for first Belmont Stakes victory

NEW YORK (AP) Dale Romans counts himself ''lucky'' that he and three passengers did not suffer life-threatening injuries in a car crash while leaving Churchill Downs following the Kentucky Derby.

''We're all lucky because the car's crushed,'' Romans said afterward.

The trainer hopes that good fortune continues Saturday when he sends out Cherry Wine and Brody's Cause in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Romans says both colts are coming into the 1 1/2 mile Belmont is fine shape - in fact much better than their trainer, who is dealing with aches and swelling almost five weeks after the wreck.

''The further I get away from the wreck, the more things they find wrong,'' said Romans who was initially diagnosed with bruised ribs. ''I'll be better. Everything will heal. In three or four more weeks, I should be fine.''

Romans says some medications left him ''a little knocked out'' but not enough to slow his march through the Triple Crown.

After Brody's Cause finished seventh in the Derby, Romans pressed on in the Preakness with Cherry Wine, who outran 17-1 odds to finish second, edging Derby winner Nyquist by a nose for the place spot.

Romans now combines forces for the final, and longest, race in the series.

Cherry Wine is the 8-1 fourth-choice on the morning line behind Preakness winner Exaggerator, the 9-5 favorite. Brody's Cause is a 20-1 outsider. Both colts have similar running styles: they rally from far off the pace.

Cherry Wine conceded 24 lengths before launching his bid in the Preakness. Brody's Cause closed from 11th to capture the Blue Grass, his final prep before the Derby.

The dynamics are usually different in the Belmont, a demanding test over the track known as ''Big Sandy.'' The longer distance doesn't usually favor deep closers. Winners often are in closer striking position.

Romans feels both horses can adapt.

''That was a strategy we thought would give him his best chance in the Preakness,'' he said of Cherry Wine. ''It worked pretty well. In this, if we want to, we can be a lot closer.''

Unlike some critics - and bettors - the trainer doesn't consider Brody's Cause a Derby disappointment.

''It wasn't that bad of a race,'' said Romans. ''I just think he could improve and the mile-and-a-half should help him. I thought it was a good effort. He didn't have the best of trips.''

Romans has a knack for coaxing solid efforts from his Belmont runners. He has sent out six runners in the race and is still looking for his first victory. However, four of them finished third, including Keen Ice to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah last year.

Keen Ice eventually beat American Pharoah in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

A Belmont victory would go a long way on the trainer's road to recovery.

''I'll be all right,'' Romans said.

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