run for the roses

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run for the roses (plural runs for the roses)

  1. (usually capitalized and preceded by the) The Kentucky Derby horse race.
  2. (idiomatic, American football) A college football game or series of games played with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the championship Rose Bowl game.
    • 1954, Lloyd Larson, "Ohio Comes Through Like Real Champ," Milwaukee Sentinel, 23 Nov., part 2, p. 2 (retrieved 24 Aug. 2009):
      Looking back at Ohio State's run for the roses, there might be some who will insist the Buckeyes were lucky to escape defeat at least once. . . . the Buckeyes whipped a jinx in the form of premature Rose Bowl talk.
  3. (idiomatic, by extension) A hard-fought competition or demanding challenge of any kind.
    • 1984, Lawrence Sanders, The Passion of Molly T., →ISBN, p. 226:
      The time had come, Dundee acknowledged, to decide if he was serious about making a run for the roses. It was only mid-1990, but presidential campaigns had evolved into two-year affairs, and if he really had that famous "fire in his belly," now was the time.
    • 2007, Kathleen Bacus, Calamity Jayne Heads West, →ISBN, p. 136:
      I thought about leaps of faith, runs for the roses, and reaching for the stars.