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Jul 12, 2013

Up the Backstretch: Two for the turf Saturday from Romans

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

 (Sports Network) - Eclipse Award-winning trainer Dale Romans suffered an unexpected defeat in the United Nations Handicap last week when 8-5 favorite Little Mike faded down the stretch to finish fourth after setting most of the pace.

One week later, Romans gears up again in two more turf stakes leading to the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita in November.

Originally, Romans and owner Donegal Racing were going to have Dullahan and Finnegans Wake both go in the $200,000 Arlington Handicap at Arlington Park at 1 1/4 miles. However, it was decided to send Finnegans Wake to Belmont Park for the $600,000 Man o'War Stakes over 1 3/8 miles.

The mission for both 4-year-olds is to win, but the long-range goals are not the same for either colt.

Dullahan, third in last year's Kentucky Derby, will be using the Arlington Handicap as a prep race for next month's Pacific Classic, a race he won in an upset over Game On Dude in 2012.

You can be certain Dullahan is happy to be back home in America after less- than-satisfying efforts in Dubai. In March, the colt had consecutive 11th-place finishes over Meydan Racecourse's synthetic track, lowlighted by his effort in the $10 million Dubai World Cup, 34 lengths behind 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.

Dullahan is no stranger to turf racing. Last year, he was second in the Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park before winning the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

After the Pacific Classic, his connections surprisingly entered him in the Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park, where he finished fifth on the turf and went on to the Breeders' Cup Turf and a disappointing ninth-place result.

Jockey Kent Desormeaux is reunited with Dullahan. The Hall of Fame rider was aboard the colt last year for his in-the-money efforts in the Palm Beach, Blue Grass and Kentucky Derby. They last paired up for a fifth in the Haskell Invitational.

Finnegans Wake is strictly a grass runner with eight straight starts on the turf since his last race on dirt 15 months back.

The colt will be making just his third start this year and is seeking a win for the first time since claiming an allowance race 13 months ago at Churchill Downs. He came in fourth in Belmont Park's Manahttan Handicap five weeks ago.

The outlook for Finnegans Wake is up in the air depending on Saturday's effort. The colt has shown varying degrees of ability with little consistency. Romans keeps putting a different jockey on Finnegans Wake's back. Luis Saez gets the call for the Man o'War, the fifth different rider in the same number of races.

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