Catesby Clay’s Rogue Romance could be one of the longest shots on the board for the $400,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I) on Saturday evening at Churchill Downs, but trainer Ken McPeek hopes for a top effort from his 4-year-old colt when he faces a group of some of the best older horses in training.
“We feel like our colt is doing better now than he ever has before,”
McPeek said via phone from New York. “He’s been working extremely well
and he’s on his home track. At some point you have to try them at the
Saturday’s Stephen Foster will mark the second time Rogue Romance has
battled Grade I competition at Churchill Downs. After winning the
Bourbon (GIII) on the turf at Keeneland, Rogue Romance completed his
2-year-old campaign with a third-place finish behind Uncle Mo and Boys at Tosconova in the 2010 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI).
In his only start at age 3, Rogue Romance finished third behind Mucho Macho Man and Santiva
in the Risen Star (GII) at Fair Grounds. Had foot issues not caused
Rogue Romance to miss the rest of his sophomore season, McPeek has said
he would have competed in the Triple Crown series.
A chestnut son of Smarty Jones, Rogue Romance
returned last March to win a one-mile allowance race on the dirt at
Gulfstream Park off a 13-month layoff. After a disappointing
seventh-place finish in the Ben Ali (GIII) on the Polytrack at
Keeneland, Rogue Romance dominated a 1 1/16-mile allowance race on the
dirt at Churchill Downs, winning by five lengths under Manny Cruz, who will have the Foster mount.
Since his eye-catching allowance victory beneath the Twin Spires,
Rogue Romance has worked twice at the Louisville track in preparation
for the Stephen Foster. He breezed five furlongs on the fast main track
in 1:00.40 on June 2 and followed that with a five-furlong work in
1:00.60 over a fast surface on June 9.
Regular exercise rider Marvin Abrego was aboard for both works.
Rogue Romance carried 125 pounds in his allowance win at Churchill Downs, but has been assigned 115 pounds by Racing Secretary Ben Huffman for Saturday’s Foster. He is weighted eight pounds lighter than the top weight, Morton Fink’s homebred 5-year-old Wise Dan.
“We’ll take all we can get,” said McPeek, who noted he will be in town to saddle the horse for the Foster.