Most of the horses contesting the 2016 Triple Crown series arrived at the barns of their trainers roughly a year ago as 2-year-olds almost ready to begin their careers. With the exception of some homebreds, Thoroughbreds are generally foaled, raised, broken to saddle, and in some cases consigned and sold by other individuals prior to arriving with their racing connections.
However, trainer Dale Romans has known his Preakness Stakes runner-up and Belmont Stakes contender, Cherry Wine, much longer, with nearly two decades of association with the colt's family -- and even longer with his human connections.
A colt from the first crop of Paddy O'Prado -- whom Romans also trained -- Cherry Wine is owned by breeders William Pacella, Frank Jones, and Frank Shoop. Jones has known Romans literally since the day he was born, having had only two trainers during his tenure in the business, Romans and his late father, Jerry, who was based out of the same Churchill Downs barn. The Louisville businessman serves on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and is a vice president of the Kentucky HBPA; his top horses have included multiple Grade 1-winning homebred Tapitsfly.
Pacella is another longtime Romans supporter, having been with the barn more than 20 years; he campaigned Grade 1 winner C. S. Silk in partnership.
"They had horses together forever," Romans said. "Frank [Jones] has had horses with two trainers, me and [my father]. It makes it much more special, and plus the other partners, the Pacellas, are some of my dearest clients and some of my closest friends."
Romans bought Cherry Wine's second dam, Sweeping Story, privately for another client, Ron McKee, in 1998. She went on to become a multiple stakes winner and finished third in the 1999 Kentucky Oaks before eventually joining McKee's broodmare band. With that owner later opting to downsize, Romans purchased Sweeping Story's filly C. S. Royce for $180,000 at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale as agent for Pacella and Jones.
C. S. Royce, a daughter of Unbridled's Song, was a winner on the racetrack, taking 2 of 13 starts, but in the summer of 2011, she gave her connections a deathly scare that ended her career.
"One day, she was galloping and just fell on the racetrack for no reason," Romans said. "Everybody thought she was dead. And John Garrity, our veterinarian, walked out there and touched her on the head, and she jumped right up. Everybody said he was Jesus. So, I just retired her. I said, 'Horses don't just fall unless there's a problem,' and we bred her. I had a breeding season to Paddy O'Prado, and the cross worked."
Cherry Wine is the first foal out of C. S. Royce, and like his dam, he was foaled at Romans's farm outside of Louisville and raised there.
"He was born in my backyard," Romans said. "He's like one of my children."
Paddy O'Prado finished third in the 2010 Kentucky Derby and a creditable fifth in a salty edition of the Breeders' Cup Classic that fall in which Blame edged Zenyatta. But he did his best work on turf, with five graded stakes victories, including the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park. He was among the top 10 freshman sires of 2015, and in addition to Cherry Wine, his foals include Grade 3-placed stakes winner Above Fashion and stakes winner Ed Johnson.
In addition to versatility -- Cherry Wine is placed on turf, in addition to his powerful stakes performances on dirt -- Romans sees behavioral similarities between father and son.
Cherry Wine has "a little Paddy O'Prado personality about him," Romans said. "Paddy was the most personable horse I ever had. He was curious about things. He would holler and scream at other horses -- never mean. He'd holler at people when they came into the barn, like he wanted them to come visit with him. And this horse is inquisitive. He's not quite as verbal as Paddy.
"Paddy is a little darker [gray] and a little heavier," Romans added. "He's got the shape of his mother and the color and personality of Paddy."