Turning in his last serious workout before his scheduled seasonal debut in the $300,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2), Rogue Romance impressed trainer Ken McPeek, who said the Smarty Jones colt is doing everything right as he aims for racing's biggest prize, the Kentucky Derby (G1).
With jockey Julien Leparoux sitting still in the saddle and holding the reins tight, Rogue Romance breezed an easy five furlongs in 1:02.05 in company at Gulfstream Park on February 12. McPeek reported that as soon as Leparoux loosened his hold when the drill was complete, Rogue Romance drew away from his workmate by ten lengths and he returned to the barn in good order.
“Rogue Romance is doing extremely well—he’s gotten bigger, stronger and faster over the winter,” McPeek said. “It’s going to take an awful good horse to beat him.”
Plans call for Rogue Romance to be flown to New Orleans on February 17, two days prior to the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star at the Fair Grounds. Leparoux, who has ridden the colt to both his wins and has been aboard for three of his four career starts to date, is set to be in the irons again.
Bred by Runnymede and farm Chairman Catesby W. Clay, Rogue Romance runs in Clay’s green and black silks. He began his career on turf, winning a maiden race at Saratoga last September before capturing the Bourbon Stakes (G3) at Keeneland in a powerful last-to-first effort.
In his first race on dirt, Rogue Romance finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs behind champion Uncle Mo and runner-up Boys at Tosconova but in front of four Grade/Group 1 winners.
His competition in the Risen Star is expected to include Santiva, a son of Giant's Causeway who won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs and was second in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, and Machen, a Distorted Humor colt who has impressively won both his career starts at Fair Grounds.