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A hard-fought competition or demanding challenge of any kind.

Additional definitions for 'run for the roses':

run for the rosesA college football game or series of games played with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the championship Rose Bowl game.
run for the rosesNickname for the Kentucky Derby horse race.
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"run for the roses." Phrases.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 20 Nov. 2017. <http://www.phrases.net/phrase/run-for-the-roses_6540>.

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