Trainer Dale Romans has had his share of major stakes victories at Saratoga Race Course through the years, including the 2004 Whitney (G1) with Roses in May, the 2012 Just a Game (G1) with Tapitsfly, and, perhaps most memorably, the 2015 Travers (G1), in which he upset Triple Crown winner American Pharoah with Keen Ice.
But there is little that would make him happier on Travers Day, August 24, than to lead a couple of horses carrying the colors of local owners Robert Baron and Roddy Valente into the winner's circle after two of the six Grade 1 races on the day's card.
"I'm running two horses here at Saratoga owned by guys who live in the Capital Region," said Romans, "and I think that's pretty cool."
Baron, of Voorheesville, will be represented in the $600,000 Forego presented by Encore Boston Harbor by Promises Fulfilled, already a two-time stakes winner at the Spa, while Valente's hopes, and those of his family in Loudonville, will be riding on Coach Rocks in the $700,000 Personal Ensign presented by Lia Infiniti.
"I know the thrill it was [for Baron] to win [the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) and the Amsterdam (G2)] last year," said Romans, who will also be saddling Preakness runner-up Everfast in the $1.25 million Runhappy Travers. "If Roddy were to win, I'm sure he'd be in the same place. He's been a huge supporter of the sport, a huge supporter of Saratoga - he never misses a day. For him to win a Grade 1 race, especially of this magnitude, in front of his home crowd, would have to be very special."
Promises Fulfilled, a son of the Romans-trained Shackleford, has won seven of his 15 career starts and more than $1.4 million since being purchased at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale by the trainer for a bargain $37,000. It was in the colt's third and final start as a 2-year-old, said Romans, that he knew he gotten a good, if not great, deal.
"He ran third in the Kentucky Jockey Club [G2] after popping a splint," he said. "He was getting out every step - getting out bad - but he kept going to run third behind some good horses., He had every right to run last or pull himself up, but he didn't. To run with adversity is a sign of a very good horse. That's when I knew he was special."
Promises Fulfilled went on to win the Fountain of Youth (G2) and the Phoenix (G2) at Keeneland as a sophomore, and this year has finished fourth in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) and the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap (G1), third in the Churchill Downs (G2) and enters the Forego off a front-running 4 ½-length victory in the John Nerud (G2) on July 6 at Belmont Park.
"He always shows up," said Romans. "He doesn't have to have the lead, but I wouldn't try to win in front of him."
Coach Rocks, purchased for $95,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale in 2017, did not break her maiden until the following year, but won the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and finished second in the Delaware Oaks (G2) and the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) before wrapping up her sophomore season with a fifth in the Alabama (G1). Owned by Valente, RAP Racing and Wet Point Thoroughbreds, she comes into the Personal Ensign with a solid second-place finish in the Molly Pitcher (G3) behind odds-on Mitole.
Calumet Farms' Everfast, who will have his final breeze Saturday morning along with Promises Fulfilled and Coach Rocks, weather permitting, enters the 1 ¼-mile Travers off a fourth-place finish in the Haskell (G1) at Monmouth Park.
"I would have like to see him finish stronger," said Romans, "but he still picked up a nice check. He's proven he can run with these horses, although he hasn't proven he can beat them. But he keeps knocking at the door, and eventually, it will open."