Uncorking a powerful closing kick that catapulted him from last, Runnymede-bred Rogue Romance captured the Bourbon Stakes (G3) over the Keeneland grass on October 10 while earning a ticket to the $1-million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G2).
The victory further enhances the remarkable record of Runnymede’s foal crop of 2008. From a group of 27 that the farm offered at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale, there have been six winners to date topped by Grade 1 victor and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) candidate Jaycito, Irish Group 2 winner and Group 1-placed filly Laughing Lashes and now Grade 3 winner Rogue Romance.
Runnymede Chairman Catesby W. Clay co-bred Rogue Romance, a chestnut son of Smarty Jones and the Afleet mare Lovington, and he opted to buy the colt for $65,000 from the farm’s consignment last year.
Joined by his wife, Elizabeth, and six of their eight children at Keeneland, Clay cheered Rogue Romance as jockey Julien Leparoux deftly steered the colt to the outside for the Bourbon Stakes stretch run. Watch the race video by clicking here.
Rogue Romance’s turn of foot impressed the rider, trainer Ken McPeek and the Clay family as he burst past 11 rivals, turning his slow start and an early bumping incident into just minor footnotes to an otherwise stellar performance in the 1 1/16-mile contest.
“He’s got a nice kick and I was very impressed,” said Leparoux, who rode three Breeders’ Cup winners last year to earn the Bill Shoemaker Award as the event's outstanding jockey.
McPeek, who has a long history of training successful Runnymede-breds including Grade 1 winner and 1995 Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Tejano Run, said Rogue Romance is still green but lauded him as versatile.
“The Clays have bred some really good horses for us, going back to Tejano Run; there’s a long list of them over the years. I’m just really happy for them,” McPeek said. “They’re a wonderful group of people, great to work for. Obviously, they brought a good horse to the game.
“I’m not convinced that grass is this colt’s only game—I think he’ll be fine on the dirt,” the trainer added. “He’s got the two-turn thing down pat, no problem. He’s obviously got a great turn of foot.”
While a start in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) over the Keeneland Polytrack on October 9 was contemplated, McPeek said the decision to go in the Bourbon was made partly based on Leparoux’s availability.
“I had to make a decision whether I was going to run him in the Futurity or here. In all honesty, I was going to lose Julien to another horse if I ran yesterday, so we decided to sit still and wait for this race today,” he explained.
Although Rogue Romance clearly did not relish the sting of sod and dirt kicked in his face as struggled into the clubhouse turn in the Bourbon, he settled into stride on the backstretch before swinging six wide into the stretch.
“I had the binoculars nailed on him and he was getting a lot of dirt in his face and he wasn’t real happy about it,” McPeek said of the early stages of the race. “He was fighting the tongue tie in the paddock, so he’s really green in the scheme of things, but obviously he’s quick enough to win one.”
Rogue Romance crossed the finish line in 1:43.76 on the course rated firm, 2 ½ lengths ahead of runner-up Cozy Kitten, who also will be pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, according to owner Ken Ramsey. Longshot Ocasta finished third.
With the winner’s prize of $60,000, Rogue Romance boosted his career bankroll to $93,150. In three career starts, he has won twice, including a maiden special weight event on the turf at Saratoga Race Course, after finishing a good fourth in his debut, also at Saratoga.
Rogue Romance is a half brother to Grade 3 winner and $605,356-earner Savorthetime and multiple graded stakes-placed Tizbig. He also has a very attractive weanling half sister by Medaglia d’Oro who is being raised on the fields of Runnymede.