On The Rocks (Jake Bayliss, red cap) refuses to surrender in the closing stages of the Avondale Guineas.
On The Rocks was overlooked in the lead-up to today’s Gr. 2 Electrolux Avondale Guineas at Ellerslie, and even his connections feared that a wet track might trip him up.
But with an impressive display of class and courage, the Alamosa colt proved everyone wrong with a victory that has thrust him right back into Vodafone New Zealand Derby contention.
The Michael Moroney and Pam Gerard-trained On The Rocks rose to prominence earlier in the season with a win in the Listed Trevor Eagle Memorial and a placing in the Gr. 2 Auckland Guineas, then finished eighth in a fast-run Karaka Million 3YO Classic.
“Anyone who looks at that result without seeing the replay might put a line through him, but that race had such a hot pace,” rider Jake Bayliss said. “They really turned it up, and it just bottomed him out. We changed our game plan today to try to get him to settle.”
That new plan had the desired result, with On The Rocks settling nicely in fifth place as the longshot Transformer showed the way.
On The Rocks was travelling well approaching the turn, and the 16-to-one outsider moved forward to challenge for the lead at the 250-metre mark.
But the Slow8 ground was far from ideal, and On The Rocks was under siege on both flanks – Danzdanzdance and Vin De Dance to the inside, and favourites Scott Base and Mission Hill out wide. But On The Rocks pinned his ears back and would not be denied, beating Danzdanzdance by a short head.
“He was a little bit colty and had a look around when he got to the front,” Bayliss said. “He also doesn’t handle wet tracks at all – he’d be a length or two better on a good surface. But he’s got the will to win.
“Michael Moroney and Pam Gerard gave me this opportunity to come over here and we’ve kicked a few goals, but a Group win for the stable really means a lot.”
Bought for $40,000 by Paul Moroney as a yearling at Karaka, On The Rocks has now won three of his seven starts and more than $121,000 in prize-money.
“He was a bit of a forgotten horse coming into today,” Gerard said. “We were a bit unsure about him on such a wet track – he doesn’t like it at all. But he’s such a brave horse, he always tries so hard.
“His work through this week had been outstanding. We were really hoping for a better track, but he got away with it today. It’s a great result for a fantastic group of owners. We’ll just hope for drier ground on Derby day (March 3).”
The TAB reacted to today’s result by cutting their Derby quote for On The Rocks from $16 to $6.50. He now shares third favouritism with Avondale Guineas third placegetter Vin De Dance.
On The Rocks will attempt to become the sixth Avondale Guineas winner in the last seven years to win the Derby, following Silent Achiever (2012), Puccini (2014), Mongolian Khan (2015), Rangipo (2016) and Gingernuts (2017).
Late-finishing Avondale Guineas fourth placegetter Scott Base has eased slightly in the Derby market. After being the outright favourite at $3.50 this morning, he now shares that mantle with Danzdanzdance at $4.50.