BALTIMORE -- He was born and raised in Louisville, with horse racing in his blood. Dale Romans and his brother Jerry learned from their father, a trainer also named Jerry, and Dale took out his trainer's license at 18. He was 20 when he stood in the winner's circle for the first time, on a February day in 1987 at funky old Turfway Park.
As he savored his first win in a Triple Crown event, Romans reflected on coming up from the bottom.
"It's phenomenal," he said Saturday after Shackleford held off Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom by a half-length in the Preakness at Pimlico. "Because Lord knows, 25 years ago, nobody thought I'd sit up here and talk about a classic race.
"My brother and I were reminiscing today about how bad some of the horses were. It just shows you that if you keep doing it long enough and get the right horses in your hands, anybody can do it."
Dale's only regret was his father wasn't alive to see him hold the Preakness trophy.
"I think he'd be blown away," Romans said. "I don't think he won but two or three stakes his entire career, but it was good enough to raise us all."
Team Romans is still a family operation, with Dale's partner, Tammy Fox, a former jockey, playing a key role. Dale is a big, burly guy, and she's tiny, about 4-8, but very sharp and tough. She briefly played running back in a women's pro league and was hard to tackle. The couple has a daughter, Bailey, and a son, Jacob.
"We have a great team, from top to bottom," said Romans, who is based at Churchill Downs. "We have hot-walkers who have been with us for 10 years. My assistants have been together since we were 19 or 20 working for my father. Tammy's a huge part of the stable, and she breezes all the horses. There is nobody that gives a better line on a horse than she does.
"I was telling the story this morning about when Tammy and I were young and getting started together. Our second year at Saratoga, I was picking Dick Dutrow Sr.'s brain all the time. One day, he got tired of me and said, 'Keep the little girl who's breezing all your horses and you'll be just fine.'
"And he was right."