With the support of trainer Ken McPeek and Eclipse Award-winning jockey Julien Leparoux, the Runnymede Farm team has decided to enter homebred Rogue Romance in the ultimate test for two-year-olds—the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs.
The decision was declared on October 28 by Runnymede Chairman Catesby W. Clay, in whose silks the chestnut colt by Smarty Jones has won two of his three starts, all of which have been on turf.
Yet there are many factors that suggest Rogue Romance could be just as good—if not better—on dirt. After two weeks of spirited discussions involving all eight of Clay’s children and Runnymede General Manager Martin O’Dowd, the Juvenile was selected as the target for the colt instead of the $1 million Juvenile Turf (G2).
“The team at Runnymede feels that the Juvenile is the right race for Rogue Romance,” Clay said, “and we are delighted that Julien has accepted the ride.”
The race will mark a historic first for Runnymede and the Clay family. While Runnymede is the oldest continually operated Thoroughbred nursery in Kentucky, founded by Clay’s grandfather Col. Ezekiel Clay in 1867, Rogue Romance will be the first horse to carry the family’s traditional green and black colors in a Cup race.
Leparoux, who has ranked as leading rider at Churchill Downs six times during the spring and fall meets over the past four years, also was the top rider during the 2009 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park. Winner of the Bill Shoemaker Award after steering home three Cup winners, Leparoux has advised the Runnymede team that he thinks the Juvenile distance of 1 1/16 miles, compared to one mile for the Juvenile Turf, and the dirt surface both will be advantageous for Rogue Romance.
“Rogue Romance’s breeding and his training during the summer over the main track at Saratoga indicate he will perform well on the dirt,” O’Dowd said. “He’s bred top and bottom for it and everything about his conformation suggests the dirt. His talent is what has propelled him to his success on the turf.”
Rogue Romance enters the Juvenile off two consecutive wins, both over 1 1/16 miles on grass, the first in a maiden special weight race at Saratoga and the most recent in the Bourbon Stakes (G3) at Keeneland on October 10. Leparoux guided the colt to both victories.
Competition in both the Juvenile and the Juvenile Turf appears to be stiff, with six Grade 1 winners pre-entered in the Juvenile and five European grass specialists pre-entered in the Juvenile Turf.
One of Rogue Romance’s prime rivals in the Juvenile will be Zayat Stables’ impressive Jaycito, winner of the Norfolk Stakes (G1) in his most recent start. Like Rogue Romance, Jaycito was bred by and raised at Runnymede and offered at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale, so in that sense the farm will have two chances in the championship contest.
Additionally, Runnymede will be represented as a breeder by Breeders' Cup Marathon (G3) contender Awesome Gem, another Grade 1 winner bred, raised and sold by the farm. The versatile Awesome Gem has earned more than $2.2 million while racing for West Point Thoroughbreds and will be making his fourth Cup appearance after previously running twice in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), including a third-place effort to Horse of the Year Curlin in 2007, and once in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1).
Meanwhile, in a slight change of plans, McPeek will send Rogue Romance out for his final timed Cup work at Keeneland on October 30. Originally, the colt was to have worked that morning at Churchill, but the decision was made not to ship him to the Louisville track until after the effort.
“He’s happy at Keeneland. After the work, he will go to Churchill and get familiar with the surroundings there,” O’Dowd said.
Pre-entries and conditions for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile are available by clicking here: http://www.breederscup360.com/breeders-cup-2010-preentries/