Stubborn trainer saves stallion prospect from early surgery

4 min read

Written by Paul Vettise

Matamata trainer Pam Gerard’s determination saved On The Rocks (NZ) (Alamosa {NZ}) from the unkindest cut of all, and thanks to her insistence, the 4-year-old now has a stallion profile he can only further build on.

She operates in partnership with the Flemington-based Mike Moroney, who was keen on gelding the grey as a younger horse but Gerard stood firm.

Pam Gerard

“He was never going to be a stallion and I had to fight with Mike to keep him a colt,” she said. “He was quite quiet and I just thought keeping him a colt would help him.”

“He was never going to be a stallion and I had to fight with Mike to keep him a colt.” – Pam Gerard.

That it has and On The Rocks surpassed his G2 victory in the Rich Hill Mile on New Year’s Day with an emphatic victory in Saturday’s G1 Herbie Dyke S at Te Rapa and the thick end of the NZ$400,000 purse, the richest weight-for-age prize in New Zealand.

Jockey Jake Bayliss, who won the G2 Avondale Guineas on the colt last season, had him loping along behind the pace and one off the fence to the turn.

He then peeled out to follow the hot-pot Danzdanzdance (NZ) (Mastercraftsman {Ire]) into the straight and, despite veering in, he powered home for what in the end was a soft win.

Wellfield graduate

Bred by Bill Gleeson, On The Rocks was sold through his Wellfield Lodge draft, with Moroney’s brother Paul signing for the youngster at NZ$40,000 - becoming the 36th individual Group 1 winner purchased by the highly respected agent.

He has an interesting pedigree and is out of the unraced Volksraad (GB) mare Cold Shoulder (NZ), who is a half-sister to the G1 Melbourne Cup, G1 Turnbull S. and G1 Victoria Derby winner Efficient (NZ) (Zabeel {NZ}).

She is also a sibling to the G2 Dato Tan Chin Nam S. winner Guillotine (NZ) (Montjeu {Ire}) who has sired a handful of Group winners.

“I’m so happy for everyone that has supported us,” Gerard said. “He’s a great horse and I think he’s been under-rated all the way through. What a heart he’s got.

“I’m so happy for everyone that has supported us.” – Pam Gerard.

“He’s never been colty at all. On race day he gets a bit excited just like we all do and his emotions get up.”

On The Rocks as a yearling

On The Rocks had a comfortable margin on the post on Tiptronic (NZ) (O’Reilly {NZ}) with Elusive Treasure (Northern Meteor) third ahead of the late finishing Charles Road (Myboycharlie {Ire}).

The commanding favourite Danzdanzdance was under pressure before the turn and finished a lack-lustre fifth.

“She switched off 1000 metres out, but she was just left wanting when it was time to get going,” rider Michael Rodd said. “There was no real zip in her.”

Belle of the ball

Melody Belle (NZ) (Commands) is the front-runner for New Zealand Horse of the Year honours after adding the G1 BCD Group Sprint to her tally.

Successful in the G1 Tarzino Trophy and the G1 Windsor Park Plate in the spring, she was disappointing at her previous appearance when beating only two runners home in the G1 Telegraph last month but bounced back in style.

“I don’t know what happened there, but everything she did since then was spot on and this is the real Melody Belle,” trainer Jamie Richards said. “It’s pretty special.

“At the top of the straight I gave her away a bit. Full credit to the mare – she’s so tough and never gives up.”

“Full credit to the mare – she’s so tough and never gives up.” – Jamie Richards.

The Fortuna-raced Melody Belle looked to be labouring 400 metres from home before she rallied another effort and powered home to beat Bostonian (NZ) (Jimmy Choux {NZ}) and Ardrossan (Redoute’s Choice).

“I’m thrilled to ride for Te Akau and Fortuna. I did my apprenticeship with Te Akau and I’m just rapt,” rider Troy Harris said.

“Turning for home I thought we were in a bit of trouble, but in the last 200 I gave her a couple with the whip and she just took off.”

Melody Belle winning the G1 BCD Group Sprint