05/18/2012 11:32AM

Churchill Downs: Rogue Romance targets rebound in Sunday allowance

Barbara D. Livingston
Rogue Romance will look to bounce back in an allowance race Sunday at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Some may theorize that Rogue Romance, coming off a fast victory at Gulfstream on March 21 following a layoff of more than13 months, subsequently bounced when seventh, beaten more than 29 lengths in the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland on April 22.

Don’t count trainer Ken McPeek among such believers.

“That wasn’t a bounce; that was a thud,” he said.

Sunday’s ninth race at Churchill Downs, a $60,600 third-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles on dirt, provides a prime opportunity for Rogue Romance to get back in form under conditions that suit him.

His five opponents appear relatively weak by typical third-level allowance standards for Churchill Downs, with the possible exception of stakes winner and Super Derby runner-up Awesome Bet, but that rival could be at a fitness disadvantage. Awesome Bet has not raced since a fifth in the Zia Park Derby on Dec. 3.

McPeek said he is approaching the Ben Ali as a toss-out race, not having found an explanation for why Rogue Romance struggled.

“He had no excuse whatsoever,” McPeek said. “We just figure he didn’t like the Polytrack. He did everything right going in and coming out, scoped clean after. I do not have an answer.”

A dislike for the Churchill surface should not prove an issue. In his only prior race over the Churchill Downs main track, Rogue Romance ran third, beaten 10 1/4 lengths behind Uncle Mo in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Manny Cruz picks up the mount on Catesby Clay-owned Rogue Romance, a 4-year-old son of Smarty Jones who won the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes on turf as a juvenile at Keeneland and who was third behind Mucho Macho Man in the Grade 3 Risen Star in his lone start at 3.

Tactically, Sunday’s race also benefits Rouge Romance, starting in post 6, seemingly in perfect position to track front-runners Westshore and Achaemenes.

Conversely, Awesome Bet, along with Stay Put and Wealth to Me, are all deep closers, disadvantaged in a race relatively short of pace.

The horse to catch may prove to be the rail-drawn Westshore, with his jockey, Calvin Borel, likely to try to utilize his inside post with a hustling ride. The horse won an allowance on the front end under Borel in June 2010 at Churchill by 14 1/4 lengths.