Riff Rocket (American Pharoah) wins the CS Hayes Stakes at Flemington

Winning Return for Coolmore Raised Derby Winner

A homebred for Debbie Kepitis and her family through their Woppitt Bloodstock venture, Riff Rocket (3g American Pharoah x Missile Coda, by Smart Missile) won the $2million Group I VRC Victoria Derby (2500m) last spring and returned in winning form on Saturday at Flemington to capture the Group III VRC CS Hayes Stakes (1400m).

Trained by Chris Waller and ridden Craig Williams, he looked a class above beating Group I winning colt King Colorado by three-quarters of a length with promising Verdad (3g Justify x Whistle Baby, by Magnus) in third place.

“I know he won a Derby, but we genuinely believe he didn’t stay out the distance that well,” said stable representative Charlie Duckworth.

“We haven’t changed anything drastically. We’ve just gone through the normal processes we would with any horse, and he’s come back mentally matured and is a lot sharper.

“I was told he is the first horse in 30 years to win a Derby and come back and win this race. Full credit to the horse; he’s a real trier.

“Whatever he’s been doing in his trials, all the right form judges were on him, and I think we’ll enjoy the win.”

Riff Rocket has the overall record of five wins and two seconds from eight starts with prizemoney topping $1.68 million.

“The plan was to stay here for the Australian Guineas in a fortnight, and we thought that realistically that is where we thought he’d be prime (over) a mile and beyond, but to show how sharp he was today is fantastic, so I’d image the plan won’t change too much, but hopefully he can get a picket fence together,” Duckworth added.

Riff Rocket 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.