Horse trainer shares story of lifelong struggle

Horse trainer shares story of lifelong struggle
Tammy Fox (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Tammy Fox (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Dale Romans is still riding high these days. The Louisville based trainer's horse Keen Ice just beat Triple Crown champion American Pharoah in the Travers Stakes. 

Romans' horses have won a lot of great races. But he had never beat a Triple Crown Champion. 

"I'd say (Keen Ice) gave me the biggest thrill I've ever had in racing," Romans said.

[RELATED: Keen Ice upsets American Pharoah at Travers Stakes]

Keen Ice is now back at barn four on the backside of Churchill Downs, relaxing while being fed baby peeled carrots.

Romans said the horse used to act like a 7th grader, tripping over the free throw line, but now he's ready for the NBA. Romans sensed things were changing at the Haskell Invitational in early August.

"After that race he trained different. He trained arrogant. Like he figured it all out. Knew why he was here. You can see he's a little arrogant right now," Romans said.

Romans grew up around race horses. His father, Jerry Romans, also trained at Churchill Downs.

"Barn four. I don't remember not coming here," Romans said. "This was my father's barn."

Jerry Romans passed away 15 years ago. Romans had already started training at that time. He said the barn is where he felt the most comfortable because school was difficult for him. Romans was diagnosed with dyslexia in the second grade.

"The problem with having a learning disability or any challenges, most of the time you've very intelligent. But you're smart enough to think you're dumb," Romans said.

Placed in special education classes at Schaffner Elementary School, Romans then went to Butler High School.

He credits the horses and his mother for saving him.

"A lot of kids don't have my Mother to guide you through it and tell you everyday how smart you are," Romans said.

Romans says his oral IQ is high. He remembers everything he's told, but even today remains at a fifth grade reading and writing level. 

His assistant does the daily training notes. Something he says would take him all day long to do. 

His dyslexia has gone unnoticed by others, mostly because he's had the same team at Romans Racing. Including his exercise rider and life partner Tammy Fox, the mother of their children. 

"Say letter or newspaper, he'll ask me or one of the kids to read it for him," Fox said.

Romans prefers to talk on the phone. He doesn't use e-mail. He has only read one novel, Catcher in the Rye, just to say he did it.             

"I never talked about it. Don't know if running from it or ashamed of it. I don't think so, just didn't talk about it much," Romans said.

But now he wants to share, especially with kids who grew up like him, struggling in school. To help them see they too can become a winner.

Fox said she thinks Roman's dyslexia has actually helped him in training, because he focuses on reading the horses. 

Currently, Romans is training Keen Ice for the Breeders Cup at Keeneland, and hopefully a rematch with American Pharoah.

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