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Classy customer On the Rocks (5 g Alamosa – Cold Shoulder, by Volksraad) is on the road to defending his Herbie Dyke Stakes (Gr. 1, 2000m) title after a tremendous fresh-up performance in the $15,000 New World Summer Cup (Open, 1400m) on 2 January at Tauranga.

Off the scene and gelded since contesting the Doomben Cup (Gr. 1, 2000m) and O’Shea Stakes (Gr. 2, 2200m) in Brisbane, when clearly below his best, On the Rocks was without a trial but had looked good pairing up with stable-mate and 2000 Guineas (Gr. 1, 1600m) runner-up Harlech (Darci Brahma) during an exhibition gallop between races on 18 December at Matamata.

Prior to the race, co-trainer Pam Gerard said: “He is really well and picked up considerably in the last month. His coat is gleaming and he came on nicely for the exhibition gallop. Weighted with 61.5kgs makes it tough, but he is a Group One winner and just having an outing as a lead-up to the Thorndon Mile (Gr. 1, 1600m) on 18 January at Trentham.”

An outing it was, but nobody told On the Rocks to take it easy and he dished it up to a couple of well performed gallopers.

Quite content to sit pat as the pace unfolded, rider Michael McNab let On the Rocks slide round to a challenging position entering the straight and he was quite simply too good in winning stylishly by three-quarters of a length.

“He is class,” McNab said. “I probably ended up getting there (front) too soon on him, but 61.5kgs, it was a good effort. He’s a really nice horse and I think he’s up to the goals. I’ve had a bit to do with him, riding his work and got to know him and he rates himself. He knows he’s a good horse and when he gets to the mile at Trentham, against good horses and off a good tempo, he should unleash really well.”

On footing upgraded to Good3 after race one, On the Rocks ran the 1400 metres in a comfortable 1:24.8 before quickening home in 33.9 over the last 600m.

“I guess he had to do that today, with what he’s got coming up and it’s great to see him back,” Gerard said. “He just floated along behind them and he’s got a real turn of foot. He gives the impression that he’s not doing anything and when Michael’s (McNab) ridden him in his track work he feels like he’s going nowhere but he’s pretty quick when he puts the pedal down.

“He’ll go to the Thorndon Mile at Trentham, and I know he didn’t go that well there last year but the track was a bit off. And, that should lead in nicely to the Herbie Dyke (Feb. 8) which is what we’ve been aiming him at all season.”

Casting back, On the Rocks had won the Avondale Guineas (Gr. 2, 2100m) and Rich Hill Mile (Gr.2, 1600m) at Ellerslie, before providing Mike Moroney with his 50th Group One training success – first in partnership with Gerard – in the Herbie Dyke.

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 selected by Paul Moroney and purchased for $40,000, 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).

“I remember when Paul (Moroney) asked me to come and have a look at him at Karaka,” Moroney said. “He reminded me of Second Coming. He wasn’t very big, but had plenty of length about him and a fair bit of rein. He was a horse with a good pedigree, bred by Bill Gleeson, and became the 52nd Group One win for horses selected by Paul.”

On The Rocks was strapped by Richie Fallon. 
[02 Jan 20]


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