Victoria Derby Winner Riff Rocket Another Coolmore Raised G1 Star
A homebred for Debbie Kepitis and her family through their Woppitt Bloodstock venture, Riff Rocket (3g American Pharoah x Missile Coda, by Smart Missile) has been a rising star this spring and capped his upward trajectory with a fighting win in the $2million Group I VRC Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on Saturday.
Trained by Chris Waller and ridden by James McDonald, Riff Rocket was narrowly beaten in the Group III MRC Caulfield Classic, but bounced back from that defeat to win the Derby by a head in a thrilling finish.
“Everything looked like it was going to plan, but on the turn, it almost looked like he was coming off the bridle a little bit early,” said stable represenentative Charlie Duckworth.
“That gave us a little bit of a worry, and I thought we had the horse on the inside covered, but the eventual second-placegetter challenged us late.
“Coming into today, no one is sure whether they’ll stay the 2500 (metres) and obviously second and third did it well.
“It was a serious moment of silence when they hit the line, we weren’t quite sure whether we’d got there and done the job or not, the Kepitis family, Woppitt Bloodstock, they’ve obviously really stepped into their own in terms of ownership and they’re just fantastic people to deal with and this will mean absolutely everything to them.”
Riff Rocket has the overall record of four wins and two seconds from seven starts with prizemoney topping $1.5million. He was foaled, raised and educated at Coolmore and is the first winner from two to race for the stakes-placed Smart Missile mare Missile Coda, who comes from the family of multiple Group winning sprinter Rain Affair tracing in direct tail female line to the 1945 Melbourne Cup winner Rainbird.
Missile Coda was covered by Home Affairs last spring.
Riff Rocket is the eighth Group I winner and first in Australia for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who shuttled to Australia for five seasons.