Double Rocket has had to grow up real fast
By Garrick Knight
The transition from boy to man can take some time, in horses as well as humans, but Double Rocket has had to grow up pretty quickly over the past few months.
The Cambridge four-year-old continued his swift development with a tenacious victory at Alexandra Park on New Years’ Eve over the hot favourite Dina Bolt.
It was the result of being thrown in the deep end from his first start as a four-year-old and having to race open class-level horses such as Self Assured, Mach Shard, Belle Of Montana and Our Uncle Sam.
“He was only a four-win horse but was pretty much racing open class horses straight away,” said his trainer, Arna Donnelly.
“So it took him a few runs to probably ‘harden up’ and learn to sort of run the times needed in this grade.
“He hasn’t been disappointing either – he was never far away, just didn’t get all favours for three or four runs.”
He’s got good gate speed and that had been a real asset in his recent racing, though Donnelly says they’ve tried not to abuse it and that applied on Tuesday.
“Sometimes it can be his downfall because he loves running the gate but you can’t always do that and be there at the end.
“We did pull back the other night but it was a great drive from Scott (Phelan) in the end to go forward without burning too hard.”
Once in front, and with Dina Bolt on his back wearing the invincible colours of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, Phelan steadied the pace, reflected in what is now a relatively sedate overall time of 2.40.4.
But it was a smart drive because he backed Double Rocket’s point-to-point to speed and final splits of 55.0 and 26.5 ensured he couldn’t be reeled in.
For Donnelly it was nice to be one of just two stables on the afternoon to beat the All Stars barn, a rare occurrence with the money up on premier night.
“It was a real thrill, especially being able to beat the top stable.”
One person not on course was Donnelly’s mum, Mary Walker, a part-owner of Double Rocket and huge supporter of her training career, who was undergoing an operation on the day.
“I’ve been given a rev up for even mentioning it on our Facebook page so I best not go in to it, but she’ll bounce back and hopefully be there for his next win.”
Two owners that were on course to share the success with Donnelly were Peter and Jan Argus, who are big supporters of the stable.
“They are very passionate owners that have been fantastic to me back from when I first started out with the likes of Ideal Success.
“They’ve really helped put me on the map and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
The big question is where to go next with Double Rocket and the answer might be next Friday night’s $50,000 Flying Mile on his home track in Cambridge
“There’s not really any other races for him so we might nominate and have a look.
“I have no real set plans with him for the rest of the season, though we will probably try and have a crack at the Messenger and Taylor Mile later.”
And while pushing through for a tilt at the Harness Jewels at Cambridge in late May would seem the obvious that might not be the case.
“We’ll probably try a Cups campaign with him next season or at least look to target some of the nicer races down south in the Spring.
“So we won’t want to be chasing our tail just for the Jewels.”
Donnelly chose Double Rocket at the 2017 Karaka yearling sale, going to $26,000 for the son of broodmare gem Spirit Of Eros and American Ideal.
That made him a half-brother to a bevy of winners including Crown Law, Spirit And Desire, Spirit Of Art, Spirit Of Delight and fellow Cambridge alumni, Bettor Spirits and Spirit Of Anzac.
Two of his half-sisters are the dams of God’s Spirit, Dracarys and Spirit Of St Louis as well, so she’s been one of the great modern day producers.
The pedigree page also includes none other than our greatest ever pacer, Lazarus, as well a newly-crowned Auckland Cup winner Self Assured, Star Galleria, Stars And Stripes and Spirit Of Zeus.
“I did like the look of him, even though he was only little; a nice type,” said Donnelly.
“The family just seems to leave winner after winner but there wasn’t a hell of a lot of bidding interest in him so we ended up getting him pretty cheaply, I thought.”
Double Rocket is undoubtedly the star of a stable that has swollen in size recently as Donnelly solidifies her as the biggest stable in the Waikato.
“We’ve got a big team – it’s sitting around the 30 mark at the moment.
“That includes about 10 two-year-olds that we’ve already gone through, some of which I’d like to qualify shortly before tipping out.
“We’ve also got really big numbers in the paddock, too, which is a nice position to be in.”