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 highest level.”
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.
JUDY THE BEAUTY MAKES RETURN IN THURSDAY TURF FEATURE – Wesley Ward’s Judy the Beauty, who has not raced since finishing second to Grace Hall in the Spinaway (GI) at Saratoga, will return off a more than nine-month layoff in Thursday afternoon’s featured allowance race at Churchill Downs.
The allowance for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up will be contested at five furlongs on the Matt Winn Turf Course and will go as Race 7 at 3:52 p.m. (ET).
Judy the Beauty made her career debut a winning one at Keeneland on April 15, 2011 and then shipped to Europe to win a turf allowance at France’s Chantilly just 17 days later. The race was intended to be a prep for the Albany (GIII) at Royal Ascot, but Ward scratched the filly from the race when showers caused the turf to be downgraded to “soft.”
A chestnut daughter of Ghostzapper, Judy the Beauty returned to North America and was victorious in the Shady Well on the Polytrack at Woodbine to improve her record to a perfect 3-for-3. In her next race, and final start at age 2, Judy the Beauty was rundown in the stretch by Grace Hall in the Spinaway.
“I felt like she had a tough season and I had already put a lot of miles on her, so I wanted to give her a break,” Ward said via phone from his barn at Keeneland. “She had a tough race in France shortly after breaking her maiden and then after going back-and-forth from North America to Europe, she had a gut-wrenching race in Canada.
“She was valiant in defeat in the Spinaway. I trained her after the race and she didn’t show me what I wanted to see, so I gave her some time off.”
Judy the Beauty returned to the worktab at Keeneland last April and breezed three times on the Polytrack and once on the turf before recording three straight workouts on the Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs in May. After a six-furlong breeze on the Polytrack at Keeneland on June 1, Judy the Beauty was shipped to New York to run in a race at Belmont Park that did not fill.
“The race didn’t go, so I breezed her at Aqueduct and she went great,” Ward said. “Joel Rosario worked her and loved her. I talked to his agent and he is going to fly in to ride her Thursday.”
Judy the Beauty returned to Ward’s barn at Keeneland on Monday and she will van to Churchill Downs on Thursday morning for the race.
Her main rival could be Dawn and Ike Thrash’s Wild About Marie, a four-time stakes winner sprinting on turf who recently won the Unbridled Sidney on the Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs. Named the 5-2 morning-line favorite, Wild About Marie will break from post two under Shaun Bridgmohan.
LANERIE, ROMANS TOP STANDINGS WITH 12 RACING DAYS REMAINING – Through 27 days of the 39-day Spring Meet, jockey Corey Lanerie has taken a commanding 12-win lead in the jockey standings while trainer Dale Romans and owners Richard and Karen Papiese’s Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc. are holding narrow leads in their respective categories at Churchill Downs. Here is a look at the leaders entering Thursday’s action:
1. Corey Lanerie (45-for-181, 25% win-percentage, $1,362,396 in earnings)
2. Shaun Bridgmohan (33-for-164, 20%, $1,319,338)
3. Calvin Borel (24-for-151, 16%, $656,782)
4. Leandro Goncalves (22-for-125, 18%, $672,701)
5. Miguel Mena (21-for-126, 17%, $753,943)
1. Dale Romans (12-for-74, 16%, $1,414,155)
2. Tom Amoss (11-for-34, 32%, $283,841)
3. Bret Calhoun (10-for-32, 31%, $358,707)
3. Brad Cox (10-for-24, 42%, $166,963)
5. Steve Asmussen (9-for-62, 15%, $604,908)
5. Dane Kobiskie (9-for-24, 38%, $168,477)
1. Richard and Karen Papiese’s Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc. (10-for-25, 40%, $172,763)
2. Paula Haughey’s PTK LLC (9-for-24, 38%, $168,477)
3. John Oxley (7-for-20, 35%, $271,467)
4. Billy, Donna and Justin Hays (4-for-41, 10%, $92,484)
4. Ken and Sarah Ramsey (4-for-33, 12%, $230,301)
BARN TALK – Nominations for the 111th running of the Bashford Manor (GIII) and the 22nd running of the Firecracker Handicap (GII) close Saturday, June 16. The $100,000-added Bashford Manor for 2-year-olds will be run at six furlongs on the main track on June 30 and the $150,000-added Firecracker for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course will be run on July 1, closing day of the 2012 Spring Meet. …
Churchill Downs has added additional Pick 4 and Pick 5 wagers to its betting menu for Saturday’s star-studded Stephen Foster Handicap “Downs After Dark” racing program. There will be four Pick 4 wagers that evening and second is an all-stakes Pick 4 that concludes with the Grade I Foster, which is scheduled as the 8th event on the 11-race program. All Pick 4 wagers at Churchill Downs are 50-cent minimum bets and the Foster Night Pick 4 wagers will begin in the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 8th races. The program will feature a pair of Pick 5 bets, both 50-cent minimum wagers. The first begins in the 4th race, includes all four stakes events and will conclude with the Foster. The regular Pick 5 will cover races 7-11.
WORKTAB – Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Tapizar, winner of the San Fernando (GII) at Santa Anita in January, breezed four furlongs on the fast main track at Churchill Downs on Wednesday morning in :50.60 for trainer Steve Asmussen. The work, which ranked 25th of 49 at the distance, is the first for Tapizar since April 2. …
Terra Di Sienna Stables’ Pica Slew, winner of the 2010 Azalea (GIII) at Calder and most recently fifth in the Hurricane Bertie (GIII) at Gulfstream Park in February, breezed five furlongs Wednesday morning in 1:03.80 for trainer Dale Romans. The work ranked 21st of 28 at the distance.
At the nearby Trackside Training Center, Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Headache, winner of the Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (GII) last October, breezed five furlongs on the fast track in 1:01 for trainer Mike Maker. A 6-year-old gelded son of Tapit, Headache has not raced since finishing sixth in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs last fall.
WEATHER – Wednesday: sunny, 83. Wednesday night: mostly clear, 58. Thursday: sunny, 85. Thursday night: mostly clear, 63. Friday: sunny, 91. Friday night: mostly clear, 68. Saturday: mostly sunny with a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 90. Saturday night: partly cloudy, 69. Sunday: mostly sunny with a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 90. Sunday night: partly cloudy, 70. Monday: mostly sunny with a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 90. Monday night: partly cloudy, 70. Tuesday: mostly sunny, 88.
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