Rogue Romance in the Bourbon Stakes.

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Rogue Romance in the Bourbon Stakes.
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Mathea Kelley

Rogue Romance Earns Bourbon Cheers

Eye-catching last-to-first charge qualifies colt for Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

Rogue Romance, last on the turn for home, devoured his 11 juvenile rivals in the stretch to win as much the best in the $100,000 Bourbon Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the Keeneland turf Oct. 10 (VIDEO).

Trained by Ken McPeek for owner and breeder Catesby Clay, Rogue Romance earned his way into the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf  (gr. IIT) Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs by winning the 1 1/16-mile Bourbon, a "Win and You're In" challenge race.

With Julien Leparoux delivering  the winning hand ride, Rogue Romance, a lukewarm 3-1 choice in the field of 12, closed powerfully while six wide on the outside to defeat Cozy Kitten by 2 1/2 lengths. Cozy Kitten, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, finished second by 1 1/4 lengths over 82-1 Ocasta, with Frederic Lenclud aboard. The winning time was a solid 1:43.76 over firm ground.

Rogue Romance, a son of Smarty Jones --Lovington, by Afleet, bred in Kentucky by Clay and Runnymeade Farm, was coming off a pair of starts on the Saratoga turf over the summer. He debuted with a good fourth to Air Support at 1 1/16 miles Aug. 13. The chestnut colt returned to break his maiden by 2 3/4 lengths at the same distance Sept. 6.

“The Clays have bred some really good horses for us, going back to Tejano Run," said McPeek, who indicated his charge would go on to the Breeders' Cup. "There’s a long list of them over the years. I’m just really happy for them. They’re a wonderful group of people, great to work for. Obviously, they brought a good horse to the game.”

Machisa, 44-1, set the pace in the Bourbon, posting fractions of :23.70, :48.62, and 1:13.20 with Voodoo Storm and Forum tracking. Voodoo Storm took over the lead briefly in upper stretch but was passed in the frenzied run for the wire. Stormy Rush put his head in front at the eighth pole, with Voodoo Storm and Cozy Kitten close as well. Rogue Romance, however, blew past the leaders impressively close to home and quickly drew off.

“I decided to run my race very patiently," Leparoux said. "He actually finished very good today. Very nice horse.”

Rogue Romance earned $60,000 for his second win in three starts to increase his total to $93,150.

“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. "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.”

McPeek said he considered the Dixiana Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) on Polytrack a day earlier for Rogue Romance but opted for the Bourbon instead because Leparoux was committed elsewhere.

"Thought it might be a little easier, although I’m not convinced that grass is this colt’s only game," McPeek said. "I think he’ll be fine on the dirt. He’s got the two-turn thing down pat, no problem. He’s obviously got a great turn of foot.”

He paid $8.80, $4.60, and $3.80 and keyed a $41.60 exacta. Second choice Ken and Sarah's Cozy Kitten, a debut maiden winner in his previous start for trainer Wesley Ward, returned $5.60 and $4. Ocasta, a four-length maiden winner at one mile at Kentucky Downs in his last start, was $16.60 to show.

Stormy Rush finished 1 1/4 lengths back in fourth, followed by Monzon, Voodoo Storm, Z Appeal, Mesonic, Moment of Weakness, Mont Ventoux, Machisa and Forum. Also-eligibles Banned and Rough Sailing were scratched.