Little Avondale Stud toasted another Group One victory on Saturday from their crack sprinter Roch ‘N’ Horse (Per Incanto x Rochfort) at Flemington and for one member of the Williams family it provided a timely tonic.
Nursery principals Sam and Catriona Williams were trackside to cheer home their star mare in the Champions Sprint (1200m), but thoughts were also very much at home as Sam’s father Buzz had earlier been involved in a mishap with a horse on the farm.
“He got knocked out and is under hospital observation so hopefully the win was the right sort of medicine for him,” he said.
“He had a bang and a knock to his back, but thankfully he’s okay.”
Roch ‘N’ Horse has now triumphed twice at the highest level at Flemington following her victory in the Gr.1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) in the autumn, but that has yet to seriously pique connections’ interest in travelling further afield.
“We have been approached (about Royal Ascot) before, but we declined. We haven’t been approached again since Saturday and it’s always something that would be put on the discussion table,” Williams said.
“The prize money in Australia though is just amazing and she just loves it down the straight at Flemington with two wins and two seconds
“It’s not so far to fly as opposed to England either, but you never say no and it’s worth talking about if the opportunity arose.”
Ironically, the Michael Moroney-trained Roch ‘N’ Horse accounted for international performer Nature Strip, winner of the Gr.1 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) at Royal Ascot earlier this year, at Flemington.
“It was pretty cool to be part of the whole day and to win was something very special,” Williams said.
“It was just another great day for the New Zealand industry.”
Roch ‘N’ Horse began her career at Moroney’s Matamata stable run by Pam Gerard and won three races, including the Listed Power Turf Sprint (1200m) and finished runner-up in the Gr.1 Telegraph (1200m).
The mare had quickly made up for lost time after injuries had delayed her arrival at the Matamata yard.
“She had a couple of injuries, one was a muscle issue and she also got cast when she was at the pre-trainer and hurt herself,” Williams said.
“She never started until she was a four-year-old, but had always showed ability and won first-up.
“We haven’t spoken about her next race, whether that be in the autumn or whenever, but the program Mike set out for her has been accomplished so that’s been great.”
The trans-Tasman trainer said on Sunday his first thoughts were for the mare to have another tilt at the Gr.1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) in the autumn.
“We are yet to discuss it with Sam and Catriona but there are a couple of races up the straight for her and then possibly the T.J. Smith (Gr.1, 1200m),” Moroney told RSN.
“The other question mark would be Royal Ascot and Nick Smith (Director of Racing & Communications for Ascot) was pretty keen to get her there. We will think about the whole lot and I’d say it will be her last campaign before she goes to stud.”
If anyone knows every cloud can have a silver lining it is Sam Williams, who offered Roch ‘N’ Horse as a yearling at Karaka where she failed to meet her reserve of $40,000.
He took her home and was one of three well-related fillies syndicated on lease that year, with Group Three winner Belluci Babe and the winning mare Keke Star the others.
“They all won on debut, which was fantastic and got the syndicates off to a great start,” Williams said.
“Roch ‘N’ Horse was the last one to be fully syndicated and we ended up racing the majority share in her, even though we own all three outright.
“We have retired Belluci Babe and she’s in foal to Zoustar and Keke Star is in foal to Proisir because her mother is a half-sister to Legarto’s mother.”
Roch ‘N’ Horse is out of the unraced Cecconi mare Rochfort, who is a half-sister to stakes winners Weissmuller and Travolta and Group One placed Harlow Gold.
“Rochfort was empty and is back in foal on a nice, early service to Per Incanto,” Williams said.
“He’s 18 now, but he’s looking really well. We said we will be serving a limited book of mares with him this year, 110, and the quality has been fantastic. It’s a beautiful list.”
– NZ Racing Desk.