South Louisville native Dale Romans, who is on the verge of surpassing Hall of Famer Bill Mott as the all-time leading trainer in races won at Churchill Downs, will meet with members of the media at his Barn on Thursday. Friday is Opening Day of Churchill Downs’ 11-day September Meet, and Romans trails Mott, 701 wins to 699.
The 50-year-old has three horses entered Friday and nine on Saturday, including top contender Hollywood Star in the $150,000 Iroquois (Grade II), which launches the “Road to the Kentucky Derby.” Mott has two entries Saturday.
New York-based Bill Mott, who at 63 has continued to have a productive string of horses at Churchill Downs for several years under the care of assistant Kenny McCarthy, has held Churchill Downs’ all-time win record for 31 years when he surpassed Henry Forrest (271) in 1986.
“It’s been my life’s goal to reach this milestone and we’re almost there,” Dale Romans said.
Romans, 50, grew up on the Churchill Downs backstretch learning his trade from his father, veteran trainer Jerry Romans, who passed away in 2000 – two years after saddling his 211th and final winner at Churchill Downs.
“When I came to the track as a kid I would always see this guy named Bill Mott winning multiple races a day, training the most quality horses and living the good life,” Romans said. “I would always tell myself, ‘I want to be him when I grow up.’ It makes it even more special to be battling for the title with Bill.”
Romans took out his trainer’s license at age 18 and saddled his first winner, Miss Mindy, at Turfway Park on Feb. 15, 1987. He’s recorded more than 1,900 since, including major stakes triumphs with top-level horses such as millionaire Grade I winners Roses in May, Little Mike, Shackleford, Kitten’s Joy, Silver Max, Keen Ice, Dullahan, Paddy O’Prado, Tapitsfly, Swift Temper, Brody’s Cause, Thorn Song and Court Vision.
“I grew up around Churchill Downs,” said Romans, a 14-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs. “My dad was a very successful trainer and I would always come to the races hoping to follow in his footsteps. I took out my trainer’s license at a young age. It’s sort of been a full-circle career. I used to worry about if I could get stalls for my horses at Churchill and make ends meet. Now, we’re sitting on this milestone. It’s truly amazing. I’ve had a lot of great help over the years and this is very exciting. But let’s not put the cart before the horse, though.”
The Top 10 All-Time Leading Trainers at Churchill Downs at the start of the September Meet: 1. Bill Mott (701); 2. Dale Romans (699); 3. Steve Asmussen (614); 4. D. Wayne Lukas (526); 5. Bernie Flint (479); 6. Tom Amoss (449); 7. Greg Foley (397); 8. Kenny McPeek (394); 9. Angel Montano Sr. (369); and 10. Dave Vance (352).