Levin-trained galloper Rock On Wood confirmed his status as one of the most promising horses in New Zealand when he came from near last on the home corner to down some talented rivals over 1600m at Awapuni on Saturday.
The Leanne Elliot-prepared four-year-old had caught the eye during his three-year-old campaign where he won twice and finished a close-up fourth in the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) behind Age Of Fire.
Put aside after finishing a luckless sixth in the Gr.3 Manawatu Classic (2000m) twelve months ago, the Redwood gelding was given an extended break by Elliot to allow him to fully mature.
A comfortable trial win in February preceded his first start back as a four-year-old where he showed a good turn of foot to win over 1300m in rating 72 company at Hastings.
On Saturday he was even more impressive as he overcame some traffic issues to down pacemaker Beauden in a stirring finish to the rating 82 event.
Elliot has been prepared to be patient with her charge, with that philosophy about to pay dividends for his connections.
“He just took a bit of time while he was growing early on, so it took us awhile to get to the races,” she said.
“He’s a lovely horse to have around, he’s pretty special.
“We’ll just see what comes up next for him.
“He will definitely improve from this race.”
The victory had extra significance for Elliot as it was son Ryan, who is forging a successful career as an apprentice jockey under the tutelage of the Team Rogerson stable, who was on board to guide the winner home ahead of the Rogerson runner, Beauden.
The apprentice had plenty of praise for his mount.
“It’s very special every time I ride a horse for Mum, especially when it wins,” he said.
“I took him to the back of the field to relax and to make sure he got the mile.
“I had to work my way through them, but everything opened up as they all fanned wide coming into the straight and he just let go.
“He sprinted really well and when he got in the fight with one of Rogie’s horses he dug deep.
“He’s got a bit of charisma about him and he’s quite special.”
A son of the High Chaparral sire Redwood, Rock On Wood is out of the six-time winning mare Rock On Rye, and was a $26,000 purchase from the Long Acres Stud draft at the 2016 Festival Yearling Sale at Karaka. – NZ Racing Desk