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Rogue Romance, Mucho Macho Man Vie in Saturday's Risen Star Stakes

Catesby Clay’s Rogue Romance, third in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall, and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team 1 Racing’s Mucho Macho Man, fourth in Gulfstream’s Grade III Holy Bull Stakes three weeks ago, are expected to vie for the public’s affection in New Orleans Saturday when they head a field of 10 sophomores named to Fair Grounds’ Grade II Risen Star Stakes in the final local prep for the Grade II Louisiana Derby five weeks later.

This winter’s Louisiana Derby, centerpiece event of the Fair Grounds season, will offer a $1 million purse for the first time in its 98-year history on March 26 and become the richest race for Thoroughbreds ever offered at the Crescent City oval.

In Saturday’s Risen Star, Rogue Romance has been given a slight edge at 3-1 in the morning line while Mucho Macho Man has been installed as the 4-1 second choice shortly after the field was finalized on Valentine’s Day.

Ironically, Rogue Romance’s sire Smarty Jones won the Kentucky Derby in 2004, while Mucho Macho Man’s sire Macho Uno established himself as the early favorite for the 2001 Derby with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile the previous fall.

Rogue Romance is trained by Ken McPeek, who won the 2002 Risen Star and Louisiana Derby with Select Stable’s Repent, and this colt will be making his first start of 2011 since last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

“We’re just as confident in this horse as we were with Repent,” said McPeek Monday, shortly after the draw.

Prior to his lone 2011 start in the Holy Bull Stakes, Mucho Macho Man had run second in last fall’s Grade II Remsen and Grade II Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct as a 2-year-old.

“We’ve got to figure out exactly where we fit in the picture with all the rest of this year’s 3-year-olds,” said Mucho Macho Man’s trainer Kathy Ritvo on Sunday. “This race Saturday should answer that question.”

Jockey Julien Leparoux will return in the irons on Rogue Romance in the Risen Star, while Eibar Coa will be aboard Mucho Macho Man once again Saturday.

Just for Fun Stable’s Decisive Moment, 3 1/2-lengths the best in the $250,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs in his only start as a sophomore on Jan. 14, is a close third choice pegged at 9-2 in the Risen Star morning line, and is slated to have Kerwin Clark in the irons once again.

“It’s amazing how much this horse has improved between his 2-year-old and 3-year-old seasons,” Clark said.

Named to oppose the top three Risen Star choices, along with jockeys and morning lines, are:  George and Lori Hall’s Pants On Fire, Joe Bravo (6-1);  Courtlandt Farm’s Machen, Jamie Theriot (6-1); Tom Walters’ Santiva, Mike Smith (6-1); Zayat Racing Stable’s Justin Phillip, Shaun Bridgmohan (8-1); Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch’s Action Ready, Rosie Napravnik (12-1); Tony and Carl Bowling and William Don Bennett’s Sorgho, Eddie Martin Jr. (30-1); and Thomas Amenta and Tom Amenta II’s Liondrive, Chantel Sutherland (50-1).