On The Rocks is back in Group 1 contention after downing his fellow classic hopefuls at Ellerslie.
The Alamosa colt dropped down the pecking order after he was unplaced in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m), but he’s back in business after knocking off a strong three-year-old line-up in Saturday’s Group 2 Avondale Guineas (2100m).
On The Rocks’ performance under stable jockey Jake Bayliss has seen his Group 1 Zealand Derby (2400m) odds come in from $16 to $6.50.
“To be honest, I was a bit dubious today about the wet track, but he’s just so brave,” said Pam Gerard, who trains with Michael Moroney.
“His work during the week was absolutely outstanding and it was a beautiful ride from Jake. Very patient and it was all about getting the horse to settle and finish off and he’s done that.
“I would like a better track for the Derby and a good draw.”
Out of a half-sister to the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) and Group 1 VRC Derby (2500m) winner Efficient, On The Rocks raced behind the pace and he finished determinedly in the straight for the third win of his seven-start career.
“At his last start he raced on a hot speed and they really turned it up at the 800m and he got bottomed out,” Bayliss said.
“I was full of confidence today, his work had been huge and he was on his toes. I got him to settle better and he towed me into it at the top of the straight and kicked.
“He’s got plenty up his sleeve and I think he’s a big Derby hope. He’ll be a length or two better on a good surface as well.”
The filly Danzdanzdance ran on well for second to also do her Derby claims no harm while Vin De Dance, Scott Base and Mission Hill were next home and also returned solid trials for the upcoming feature on March 3.