The Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes 2013 in September has been earmarked by top Victorian trainer David Hayes as the first Group 1 target for his progressive galloper Pago Rock following a narrow win at Flemington on the weekend.
The rising six-year-old Rock Of Gibraltar gelding posted their ninth career win on Saturday in Heat 6 of the All Victorian Handicap.
It was a narrow victory for Pago Rock in the $80,000, 1100m sprint down the straight with a mere nose separating them and the David Bourne-trained runner-up Zamorar, and one that impressed Hayes as nothing really went to plan with the horse forced to race on pace.
“He carried the big weight today and benefited from a run down the straight last week,” Hayes said, Pago Rock carrying 57kg after a three kilo claim.
“The plan was to give him cover but he ended up getting none.”
Showing nice improvement on their last start sixth in an earlier 1200m heat in the same series at the start of the month the gelding is being tipped as having genuine Group 1 potential by their astute Hall of Fame trainer Hayes.
Hayes certainly has a long and imposing record of training Group 1 winning horses and Pago Rock will look to continue that during the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
He plans to run them again on July 27 in the $150,000 Group 3 Bletchingly Stakes (1200m), bypassing the $120,000 All Victorian Sprint Final (1200m) on July 6, before setting them for their first major test in the $220,000 Group 2 P.B. Lawrence Stakes (1400m) back at the track in mid-August.
“Around the bend at Caulfield, he can run a pretty good race,” Hayes pointed out.
From there it will be just over a month before Hayes steps them up to elite level company for the $400,000 Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) on September 29 which could be a springboard into the big time for the current $285,000 earner.
The only possible concern could be the former Peter Moody-trained horse’s ability to get back up to the 1400m as they are unbeaten in three runs over the much shorter 1100m after Saturday’s effort.
They do however have wining form up to the mile at Sandown in September of 2011, as well as six 1400m starts for two wins and two minor placings.
Currently Hayes is the sole owner of Pago Rock but ever the gentleman he will return shares to the previous Hong Kong-based co-owner should the horse progress onto Group company and win.
“I said not to give up on him (after he spent a long time off with injury), so he gave him to me for nothing,” Hayes said.
“I said that if he gets back to Group class I’ll give Pago Rock back to him.
“So the offer is there if he wants it.”
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