LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - His two Kentucky Derby 144 hopefuls will be next to each other coming out of the gate, as Free Drop Billy and Promises Fulfilled have post positions 2 and 3.
As always, Louisville trainer Dale Romans, who's accomplished so much, will have a loud cheering section Saturday. But, if his fans aren't cheering after the race, Romans, who's never won the Derby, believes he has more work to do.
With a big race looming, the golf course isn't exactly where you would expect to find a Derby trainer -- unless it's Dale Romans. Truth is, anyone who spends time with him, like his jocks Corey Lanerie and Robby Albarado, knows he's as down to earth as it gets. They also know, he's no Justin Thomas.
"Want to see some bloopers?" Albarado laughed. "Watch Dale hit the ball!"
Added Lanerie: "Dale's probably pretty good for about two or three holes but, I've never seen him finish."
Team Romans comes to play. That includes partner of 28 years in life and racing, Tammy Fox, and son Jake. It takes off the pressure, from the place they call home.
"It's the toughest Derby I've ever seen," Jake said of this year's competition.
For Derby 144, Romans will saddle up Free d rop Billy.
"He's a very live long shot," Romans smiled.
He also has Promises Fulfilled, the son of Shackleford who Romans also trained.
"He's a little bit like Shack," Romans explained. "He's got the speed and endurance."
Two starters in the Derby is a dream for most trainers, but for Romans, a Butler High grad who trained here with his dad and has been to every Derby since he was 10, the dream is the Winners Circle.
"Every time we walk over, (to the frontside), everybody cheers, 'Go Dale, go Dale, just do it for Shively, one time,'" Fox said.
Is he tired of the question?
"I'm tired of not being able to answer the question, 'What does it feel like to have won the Derby,'" Romans answered.
That's something Albarado understands.
"The most depressing, deflating, moment is when you cross the line of the Kentucky Derby and you haven't won," Albarado said. "You have to wait a whole year for that feeling."
So, Romans keeps it light, showing us how the vibrating plate feels before Free d rop Billy gets on to help his circulation. He cuts up with son Jake, a week into his new gig as Jock Channing Hill's agent.
"Am I working my Dad?" Jake laughed. "Yeah I got to right?"
Romans joked: "He used to annoy me a little bit, but now he's annoying me a whole lot."
And for unlimited laughs, there's Fox, his favorite exercise rider, until she worked Free Drop Billy without him.
"Dale fired me from him," Fox laughed.
Romans would even rather talk about Coach Rick Pitino, who owns a big chunk of his Oaks Filly Coach Rocks.
"He texts all the time," Romans said of Pitino. "Every day we have a text, a call or something."
He thinks about the smile Pitino had on his face after the horse won the Florida Oaks, and Fox won a ride.
"Dale picks me up," Fox remembered, "and he puts me right on coach's shoulders!"
Romans has marked prestigious milestones: All-time winningest trainer at Churchill Downs, taking the Preakness Stakes and leading Keen Ice to his victory over American Pharoah in the Travers.
"It's been a good career," Romans acknowledged. "But all those races you just named, pale in comparison to the Kentucky Derby. I don't even think I could imagine how big it would be."