Attachment Rate Could Pick Up the Derby Pieces for Romans and Virginia Breeders

By Carl Danbury

The morning line for the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby shows Tiz the Law as the overwhelming favorite to capture the blanket of roses a little after 7 p.m. this Saturday, (Sept. 4). Not since 1989, when entry mates Easy Goer and Awe Inspiring were installed as 3-to-5 favorites, has the morning line been so skewed for the favored horse(s).

Yet, one look at the past performances of the 18 horses entered, his Sackatoga Stable owners should be confident that Tiz the Law will provide them a second Derby champion to stand along Funny Cide. Despite starting from post-position 17 where all 41 previous starters have been denied, with only Forty Niner (1988) cracking the exacta, Tiz the Law will break just inside Authentic and outside of Honor A.P., the other two most likely winners of the race.

Few will give Virginia-bred Attachment Rate, who will break from post-position 13, much of a chance. After all, the son of Hard Spun and Arista (out of Afleet Alex), is one of eight others to be accorded 50-to-1 odds on the morning line and has just one maiden win in eight career tries. However, veteran Louisville-based conditioner Dale Romans, the second leading trainer in Churchill Downs history and winner of 124 graded stakes in 1,010 career starts, believes Attachment Rate could be sitting on his biggest effort to date, and expects he’ll need it to be competitive with Tiz the Law.

Attachment Rate training at Churchill Downs Monday Morning
Cody Photography

Attachment Rate was foaled at Wolver Hill Farm near Middleburg (Mr. and Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin III) and was sold as a weanling at the Keeneland sale in Nov. 2017 for $100,000. At the Sept. 2018 yearling sale at Keeneland, Romans, acting as the agent for owners Jim Bakke and Gerry Isbister, purchased the colt for $200,000.

Romans has gotten the cold shoulder from 10 previous hopefuls he sent to the Derby starting gate and his best finishes were with Paddy O’Prado in 2010 and Dullahan in 2012, both who finished third. His lone Triple Crown victory thus far is the 2011 Preakness Stakes with Shackleford, who upset favorite Animal Kingdom in Baltimore. Romans said Attachment Rate reminds him of Dullahan.

“I am excited to watch this horse run because I am still waiting on his biggest effort. And, it could be this week,” Romans said. ”I realize he needs to step up just a little bit and that Tiz the Law needs to stub his toe to get beat, and that’s for all others too, but I believe both of those things are possible.”

Romans has tabbed veteran jockey, Joe Talamo, to ride Attachment Rate. Talamo has been in the irons for the colt’s last two starts, a second-place finish to Art Collector (who will miss the race Saturday due to injury) in the Ellis Park Derby, Aug. 9 and a fifth-place finish in the BlueGrass Stakes at Keeneland, July 11, during which Attachment Rate was cut off and jostled by Rushie shortly after the start.

As for pre-race instructions to his pilot, Romans prefers to focus on the characteristics of the horse because too many unexpected things can happen during the course of a race.

“I never tell a rider what to do, but in a perfect world I’d like to see him sit four or five lengths off the leaders and be a little bit out in the clear where he’s not going to get stopped. If those in the front can’t get to the mile-and-a-quarter, or if the pace is too fast, then be ready to pounce,” Romans related.

Romans is forecasting a quick pace because both Authentic and Tiz the Law prefer being forwardly placed. In fact, Authentic, who has never faced a field larger than seven starters, rarely has had dirt kicked in his face at all, while Tiz the Law has been the premier threatening stalker in all seven of his career starts. Both are likely to break quickly from posts 17 and 18 so as not to get trapped going too wide entering the first turn.

“They’re going to have to go fast to clear us and we should be far enough out not to get covered up,” Romans stated.

The key to Attachment Rate’s success is his stamina and his newfound ability to switch leads.

“If he switches leads, that’s the key. Early in his career, we couldn’t get him to do it but in the last two races he has,” the trainer said. “I am confident that he will do it in this one. It was just a mental issue with him and I think he has turned the corner.”

When it comes to getting the distance, Romans is certain Attachment Rate will have no issues with the 10 panels.

“Every rider that has ridden him has said his best racing came after the wire. They couldn’t pull him up,” Romans asserted.

If the pace falls apart in front of him, Attachment Rate could be there to pick up the pieces, both for a local trainer thirsty for a victory in his hometown and for Virginia breeders hungry for an overdue defining victory.

Derby Notes by the Numbers

  • Smarty Jones and Nyquist are the most recent winners from post position No. 13
  • Tiz the Law’s final quarter mile time in the Travers was a blistering :24.53 and was already in the lead by four lengths at the mile mark
  • The longest-shot and most recent Virginia-bred Kentucky Derby winner, Sea Hero (1992), paid $27.80 to win with Jerry Bailey up.
  • The very first Virginia-bred to win the Kentucky Derby was Reigh Count in 1928, for owners John and Fannie Hertz, of Yellow Cab Co., and rental car fame. Reigh Count sired Count Fleet, the 1943 Triple Crown winner, and Count Fleet went on to sire Count Turf, winner of the 1951 Kentucky Derby. That was the first time that a son and grandson of a Derby winner also wore the blanket of roses.
  • The most recent Virginia-bred starter in the Kentucky Derby was Bodemeister in 2012. He set fractions of :22.32, :45.39, 1:09.80 and 1:35.19 before being overtaken in the final strides by I’ll Have Another.