Horses To Follow » Royal Rock

Royal Rock

Royal Rock was a disappointing favourite in the Listed Achilles Stakes at Haydock on Saturday, but he is not one for writing off just yet. There were mitigating circumstances. The big question mark over the son of Sakhee was whether or not he would be able to cope with the drop back down to five furlongs. He actually began life as a miler, he has won over seven furlongs, his best performances have been over six and he had never before raced over five. The advance ground at Haydock was given as on the easy side, which would have helped the favourite, but it continued to dry out through Friday and Saturday morning with the result that it was just on the fast side of good by race time.

This was not in Royal Rock’s favour. There was always a danger that he would get out-paced through the early stages. On top of that, he was drawn in the middle in stall six, and he raced towards the far side group, where they went hell for leather from the start, with the result that he was left behind, and was left largely to race by himself in the centre of the track. He was fully five lengths off the pace by the time they reached the half way stage of the race, and always struggled thereafter on what was probably the slowest part of the track. He did keep on okay without being able to match the finishing burst of the winner, Ialysos, but he is worth another chance. This was his second run back after a year off the track, so there is a chance that he ‘bounced’ as well.

Royal Rock was a nicely progressive handicapper in the early part of 2008, and he proved on his debut this season, when he comprehensively out-pointed really useful sprinters of the calibre of Abraham Lincoln, Zidane, Redford and Tamagin over six furlongs at Haydock in early May that he had taken another significant step forward. A fast-run six furlongs on good or easy ground appears to be his optimum now. It is surprising that he is not in the Golden Jubilee, but if it did happen to come up on the soft side at Royal Ascot, he would be of big interest in the Wokingham at current odds of 20/1. Even though he is rated 107 and would probably have to carry top weight, it is a race in which high weights have historically done well (three of the last six winners carried 9st 6lb or more, seven of the last 10 carried 9st 2lb or more and Baltic King won it with 9st 10lb on his back in 2006). I wouldn’t go giving up on Royal Rock just yet.

30th May 2009