David Hayes has identified Pago Rock as a Group 1 contender after taking out Heat 8 of the All Victorian Sprint Series at Flemington today.
There is no doubting the Hall of Fame trainer’s eye for talent and he had little hesitation in saying that the five-year-old had the potential to tackle elite races during this year’s Spring Racing Carnival.
Hayes has earmarked the Group 2 P.B. Lawrence Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield in mid-August, and then the Group 1 Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at the same track five weeks later for the gelding.
Pago Rock ($11), who drifted from the early mark of $7 with bookmakers, made it three wins from as many starts over 1100-metres and notched a ninth victory in 17 outings.
It was a narrow, but strong victory over Zaramor ($8), trained by David Bourne and ridder by Jamie Mott, and Planet Voyage ($7) for Peter Moody and Jason Benbow.
“He carried the big weight today (57.5 kilos after a three kilo claim) and benefited from a run down the straight last week”, Hayes said.
“The plan was to give him cover but he ended up getting none”, Hayes noted after Pago Rock was forced to race on the pace.
Believing that good winter city form can carry on to early Spring black-type races, Hayes said that Pago Rock could be competitive especially with a plan to focus the program around features at Caulfield, beginning with the Group 3 Bletchingly Stakes (1200m) on 27 July.
“Around the bend at Caulfield, he can run a pretty good race,” referring to the scene of two of Pago Rock’s career wins.
As a result Pago Rock, who was ridden by apprentice Kayla Nisbet, will miss the $120,000 All Victorian Sprint Final (1200m) at Flemington on 6 July.
Pago Rock’s victory was Nisbet’s first at Flemington and continued the 3kg-claiming apprentice’s hot streak since joining the Hayes stable.
It is unusual for David Hayes to own a horse outright but he does so with the son of Rock Of Gibraltar through good fortune more than anything else.
An existing client of Hayes’ in Hong Kong lost interest in Pago Rock following an extended injury lay off.
“I said not to give up on him, so he gave him to me for nothing,” Hayes explained.
“I said that if he gets back to Group class I’ll give Pago Rock back to him.
“So the offer is there if he wants it.”