41st Group I Winner for Fastnet Rock
For the second year in a row champion sire Fastnet Rock has delivered the winner of the Group I New Zealand Derby (2400m) with Sherwood Forest winning in 2020 and Rocket Spade (3c x Fastnet Rock x Affairoftheheart, by Fusaichi Pegasus) carrying the Hermitage Thoroughbreds colours to victory at Ellerslie on Sunday.
In a three-way finish to the blue riband, it was race favourite Rocket Spade who came out on top at the conclusion of a thrilling contest.
The Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott-trained colt had gone into the race off a strong performance to win the Group II Avondale Guineas (2100m) in his final lead-up to Sunday’s feature.
That run had hinted the son of Fastnet Rock would thrive on the 2400m of the Derby and so it proved as rider Craig Grylls provided a masterclass in getting Rocket Spade home after the pair were in last position with just 600m to run.
Rocket Spade powered to the line along the inside to win by half a length.
O’Sullivan was fighting hard to keep his emotions in check as he praised his training partner, Scott, and the team at their Wexford Stables for their contributions to the victory.
“This is pretty special for Andrew and all the team,” O’Sullivan said.
“Scotty has done a great job with this horse and it’s a great result. “Paul (O’Sullivan’s brother) found this horse at the sales and he keeps taking credit for it, so good on him.
“They went hard and Craig (Grylls) said he was going to ride him for luck as he believed in the horse.
“It was a no panic, ten out of ten ride, that won him the race.”
O’Sullivan also thanked owners Hermitage Thoroughbreds, a racing and breeding operation headed by Hong Kong businessman Eugene Chuang.
“Thanks to team Hermitage who let us buy him at the sales,” he said.
“They told us we had five years to buy them a Derby winner and we’ve done it.
“This horse probably has the genes to run further than Dragon Leap (fourth last year), who was a little brilliant for the Derby distance, and showed great stamina today.”
O’Sullivan was also delighted to get his first win in the New Zealand Derby as a trainer after winning the race in 1990 on Surfers Paradise and again in 1993 aboard Popsy, during his storied career in the saddle.
“This is probably more special for me as it is a lot harder to do as a trainer,” he said.
“I’m just thrilled for Craig and the great team we have behind us.
“Andrew told me I could retire now as I’ve won a Derby.”
Rocket Spade has the overall record of four wins from eight starts with over $745,000 in prizemoney.
A decision will be made as to whether Rocket Spade presses on to targets in Sydney.
A $425,000 Inglis Easter purchase from the Tyreel Stud draft for Hermitage Thoroughbreds/ Wexford Stables, Rocket Spade was bred in Victoria by Sun Stud and is the best of two winners from stakes-placed Affairoftheheart, a half-sister by Fusaichi Pegasus to dual Group I winner Soriano and Group III winner Kaiser Franz.
Rocket Spade is the 41st Group I winner for evergreen champion sire Fastnet Rock and is his third from a daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus joining Catchy and Albany Reunion.
Fastnet Rock has 17 entries for Inglis Easter next month.