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First contested in 1900, On the Rocks (3 c Alamosa – Cold Shoulder, by Volksraad) won the prestigious $100,000 Electrolux Avondale Guineas (Gr. 2, 2100m) on 17 February at Ellerslie.

Confronted with strong opposition, he was unflinching in his run to the line for jockey Jake Bayliss, who recorded his fifth stakes success since arriving in New Zealand, while On the Rocks was notching his third win from seven starts, including the Trevor Eagle Memorial (Listed, 1500m) on the same course in December.

“I was a little bit dubious of the wet (Slow8) track,” said co-trainer Pam Gerard, of the grey colt. “He really doesn’t like it. He’s just so brave and does everything possible every time.

“His work this week was absolutely outstanding and we hoped for a better track, but he got away with it today.

“It was a beautiful ride from Jake. Really patient and mindful of two week’s time we want to run in the Derby, it was all about getting him to settle and finish off and he’s done that really well.

“We couldn’t have wished for a better ride and a better result.”

Gerard added that she would like a better track, and a good draw, for the $1m New Zealand Derby (Gr. 1, 2400m) on 3 March at Ellerslie.

On the Rocks ran the 2100 metres in 2:13.9, last 600m n 36.0, and his best return was $19.00 & $5.50 on the NZ TAB fixed odds.

Owned by Andrew Clark, David Sinn, Adrian Mathieson, Noel Gurney, Richards Sims, Mount R.S.A Racing Syndicate, Ballymore (NZ), George Alas, Jim Bebedellis, and John McNicholas, On the Rocks was a $40,000 purchase, selected by Paul Moroney, from the draft of Wellfield Stud, at the 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Select Yearling Sale, a descendant from the family of Melbourne Cup winner and champion Australian staying horse Efficient (Zabeel).

“He has a fantastic group of owners,” Gerard said. “They’ve got a fit horse, just so brave and never stops trying. And, I’d like to thank the staff at home for all their efforts.”

Recalling what attracted him at the sales, Paul Moroney said: “He was such a good walking horse and well balanced. He was very backward as a yearling and I think a lot of people may have overlooked him for that reason – a little bit insignificant – but he was always athletic and looked as though he had natural improvement with age.

“He had clearly thrown to his dam side. It’s a genetic thing. His first two dams are both grey. And when you look at the dam line, you’re talking the family of VRC Derby and Melbourne Cup winner Efficient and the stallion Guillotine, both serious horses and this horse is obviously very resilient and he’s got a good brain.”

Moroney also praised Gerard for her dedication and skills since joining the Ballymore team, as co-trainer.

“She has put the Ballymore principles into practice, picked up the business, and she’s been able to nurture and get the best out of a really nice bunch of horses,” he said.

At his previous start, on 27 January at Ellerslie, On the Rocks worked forward on slick sectionals before fighting on very well in the $1m Karaka Million 3YO Classic (Listed, 1600m).

“For people who hadn’t watched his last start, he raced on a hot speed. They really turned it up at the 800m and he was bottomless coming to the 200m,” Bayliss said.

“I was full of confidence coming in today. His work had been huge. He was nice and bright, on his toes, towed me to the top of the straight, gave a good kick, still a bit coltish getting to the front and had a bit of a look around but he’s got plenty up his sleeve and I think he’s a right hope for the Derby.

“He’s got the will win,” said Bayliss, who also extended thanks to the trainers. “I’d like to thank Mr. Moroney and Pam Gerard for taking me on and giving me a go over here in New Zealand,” he said.

After winning, On the Rocks shortened in the NZ TAB New Zealand Derby market from $16 to $6.50.

Owner Adrian Mathieson said: “It’s not very often you get involved in a horse to compete at this level. In our first run, it’s an amazing feeling and it’s been great fun to meet the other people in the syndicate. We’re really enjoying coming up to Auckland, the fourth visit to see him run, and hopefully another one in a couple of weeks time.”

On the Rocks was strapped by Richie Fallon, who also strapped the 1984 Avondale Guineas winner Jolly Jake (Three Legs), trained by Alan Jones, and he then won the New Zealand Derby.

A race earlier, in the $40,000 Nathan’s Memorial (2400m), stable-mate Araldo Junior (Medicean), having his first start in New Zealand, produced a very good run for third in preparation for the $500,000 Auckland Cup (Gr. 1, 3200m) on 10 March at Ellerslie.
[17 Feb 18]


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