04/03/2012 1:11PM

Gulfstream: Rogue Romance looking 'super'

Barbara D. Livingston
Rogue Romance was an impressive winner on Florida Derby day.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Add another name, Rogue Romance, to the growing list of potential major players in the handicap division this season.

Lost in all the ballyhoo surrounding the $1 million Florida Derby – in a race that took place more than five hours earlier, while the majority of the record crowd was still fighting its way into the jammed parking lots – was the performance of Rogue Romance in Saturday’s opening event. Racing for the first time since finishing third behind Mucho Macho Man in the 2011 Risen Star, Rogue Romance rallied from just off the pace to an impressive three-length victory going a mile against a solid field of second-level allowance rivals.

The win was the third in just six career starts for Rogue Romance, a versatile son of Smarty Jones who captured the Grade 3 Bourbon over the Keeneland turf course at 2 before finishing third behind Uncle Mo later that fall in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Rogue Romance is trained by Ken McPeek for owner Catesby Clay.

“He’s been training super. and he ran super,” McPeek said succinctly when asked about Rogue Romance’s performance on Saturday. “He broke a wing bone in his foot galloping out here one day last year while getting ready for the Louisiana Derby, and the fracture took six months to heal.”

McPeek said he will “probably” bring Rogue Romance back in Keeneland’s Grade 3 Ben Ali Handicap going 1 1/8 miles on April 22.

Business boomed on big day

Saturday’s Florida Derby day card set new standards for handle and attendance since the facility was renovated in 2005. Overall handle on the 13-race program totaled over $24.6 million, besting the previous mark set last year of more than $19 million, an increase of nearly 25 percent. The ontrack handle of $2.98 million was also a new high, up over 32 percent from the previous record set in 2011. Attendance was estimated at more than 18,000, up from 14,000 a year ago.

“The energy and excitement in our facility Saturday was extraordinary,” said Gulfstream’s president and general manager, Timothy Ritvo. “The weather was perfect, the quality of racing was unparalleled, our jockeys and horses all returned safely, and our fans had a wonderful experience.”

Mucho Macho Man breezes

Mucho Macho Man, who is scheduled to depart for Churchill Downs later this week, breezed an easy three furlongs in 38.60 seconds here Monday. Mucho Macho Man, winner of the Sunshine Millions Classic and Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap here this winter, is scheduled to make his next start in the Grade 3 Alysheba at Churchill on Derby day.

Another locally based horse heading for Kentucky this week is Breeders’ Cup and Eclipse Award winner Musical Romance. She worked five-eighths on Monday over a cuppy track at Calder in 1:01.14 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.82 for Keeneland’s Vinery Madison.

◗ Nominations for the first leg of Calder’s rich starter series this spring, to be decided at seven furlongs on April 14, closed with a staggering 74 horses made eligible for the race. The series is carded for horses who started for a claiming price of $20,000 or less in 2011-2012.

◗ Tuesday’s work tab at Gulfstream was a sure sign the meet is drawing to a close, with only 10 horses receiving recorded workouts over a fast track. The 2011-2012 session ends on Sunday.