New Zealand Derby runner-up Rock ‘n’ Pop could be 2012 Epsom Handicap bound this spring despite the colt’s failed Aussie debut during the autumn having joined the Randwick stables of one Ms Gai Waterhouse.
Formerly prepared by Matamata-based horseman Jason Bridgeman in New Zealand Fastnet Rock three-year-old Rock ‘n’ Pop hit the big time back home last November winning the Group 1 NZ 2000 Guineas over the Riccarton Park mile.
They would go on to also win the Listed Karaka Mile (1600m) at Ellerslie this January before running third to Shez Sinsational in the Group 1 Darci Brahma Intl Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa in February and second to Silent Achiever in the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) in March.
Their good form around the best Kiwi three-year-olds of the season saw Bridgeman take Rock ‘n’ Pop across the Tasman.
They had just one run during the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival however when crossing four lengths away eighth behind one of their new stablemates, the fellow Waterhouse-trained Laser Hawk in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) on March 31 when ridden by Jim Cassidy for the first time.
While they didn’t have any luck for down under run number one Rock ‘n’ Pop is set for another Australian assault this time targeting the $500,000 Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Royal Randwick on October 6 for Waterhouse.
Rock ‘n’ Pop had a gallop at the Randwick trials on Monday morning with Nash Rawiller in the saddle impressing their jockey and the onlookers when putting a full length on their closest rival in a 1050m hitout for colts and geldings in a time of 1:05.70.
Rawiller was quick to credit the young horse and said they were the perfect Epsom Handicap 2012 candidate.
“He settled in behind the speed and when the gap presented itself he displayed tremendous acceleration to put the trial away,” Rawiller said.
“We’re still undecided on whether he is a genuine stayer or a miler.
“The Epsom is right there. The Randwick mile will suit him and he’s got class.”
Rawiller also praised another recent Waterhouse acquisition Miss Stellabelle, the Dehere filly having been transferred to Waterhouse’s care having originally been trained by Mark Kavanagh.
Winner of the Group 3 Champagne Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley last September, Miss Stellabelle was last seen running a disappointing 12th to Empress Rock in the Group 2 Kewney Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on March 10 which was her sixth loss on the trot.
She looked in better form at the Royal this morning however easily winning her 800-metre trial over Future Shock in 49.70 seconds.
“Miss Stellabelle is a real nice filly and I was pretty kind to her,” Rawiller said.
“I thought her and Rock ’n’ Pop were the best out there this morning.”
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