When a horse wins seven consecutive Group 1 events, as Rock Of Gibraltar did during 2001 and 2002, expectations of his stallion career inevitably soar sky high. Consequently the teak-tough son of Danehill started his stallion career in 2003 at a figure I believe was in the region of €90,000. The fact that his fee has been on the slide virtually ever since – to as low as €12,500 in 2014 – suggests that this is some kind of hero-to-zero story.
The reality is somewhat different. While not even Rock Of Gibraltar’s most ardent admirers would claim that he is as effective as a stallion as he was as a racehorse, his record is perfectly respectable. His main problem is that he is now 15. In other words he has reached a stage of his career where familiarity can breed…what? Contempt is far too strong a word, but boredom probably isn’t. Ageing stallions of proven ability frequently lose support, with breeders and buyers being lured away by shiny, untarnished young stallions who could be anything (but probably aren’t).
However, at the age of 15 Rock Of Gibraltar is old enough to be making his mark not only through his own progeny but also through those of his sons and daughters. There was a period recently when his name repeatedly cropped up in one capacity or another.
The success of Mount Nelson and Seventh Rock bodes well for Rock Of Gibraltar’s fast son Society Rock
Rock Of Gibraltar himself started May with the victory of his son Prince Gibraltar in the Prix Greffulhe and he later added another Group 2 victory when Ajaxana landed the German 1,000 Guineas. June also started very well when another three-year-old daughter, Savanne, showed determination worthy of her sire in leading throughout to take the Group 3 Prix de Royaumont. A tremendous double looked a distinct possibility when Prince Gibraltar started favourite for the Prix du Jockey-Club later in the afternoon.
Unfortunately Prince Gibraltar experienced what the Racing Post described as “a horrible trip” on his way to third place and he would have given The Grey Gatsby much more to do with a clearer run. It is worth remembering that Prince Gibraltar has a May 29 birthday, so was barely three years old at Chantilly. Expect continued improvement from this talented colt, who became a Group 1 winner as a two-year-old despite his late foaling date.
Another of Rock Of Gibraltar’s Group 1-winning sons, Mount Nelson, was also in tremendous form in May. This winner of the Criterium International and the Eclipse enjoyed stakes success with four of his daughters – two from his first crop and two from his second. While subsequent Oaks third Volume and Special Meaning scored at Listed level, Emerald Star travelled from Germany to take the Group 3 Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes and Purr Along made a winning reappearance in the Group 3 Lanwades Stud Stakes.
Rock Of Gibraltar shuttled to Australia for eight years up to 2010. Two of his daughters from his final Australian crop – Alboran Sea and Rich Girl – filled first and second places in the Grade 1 Allan Robertson Championship in South Africa in May. The same card at Scottsville also featured the Grade 1 Tsogo Sun Medallion Stakes, a race whose past winners include Rock Of Gibraltar’s son Seventh Rock.
After a spell in Australia, Seventh Rock returned to South Africa for stud duties and he became a Grade 1 sire with his first crop when his unbeaten son Guiness took the Medallion Stakes. The win moved Seventh Rock to the top of South Africa’s freshman sires’ list. He is part of Klawervlei Stud’s sizeable team of stallions.
The success of Mount Nelson and Seventh Rock bodes well for Rock Of Gibraltar’s fast son Society Rock, who made his debut at Tally-Ho Stud in 2014. He proved his worth with his Group 1 successes in the Golden Jubilee and the Sprint Cup, and should appeal to Ireland’s many commercial breeders.
Not to be left out, one of Rock Of Gibraltar’s broodmare daughters is responsible for Mikki Isle, currently Japan’s leading three-year-old miler. Mikki Isle has won five consecutive races, with his last three wins coming at Graded level.
In winning the NHK Mile Cup at Tokyo, this son of Deep Impact was following in the footsteps of such as Seeking The Pearl, El Condor Pasa, Kurofune and King Kamehameha. The last two rank among Japan’s most successful stallions, whereas the first two became Group 1 winners in France.
Perhaps Mikki Isle will also be sent to Europe to prove himself at international level. He certainly has an international pedigree, as his dam Star Isle is out of the smart French filly Isle de France, herself a daughter of the top American filly Stella Madrid.
Mikki Isle must also have the makings of a top stallion, as his female line is also responsible for Heart’s Cry, a horse I have often championed in this column. This 13-year-old son of Sunday Silence is having a tremendous year, having pulled off the Japanese Oaks and Derby double with Nuovo Record and One And Only, in addition to siring the world’s highest-rated horse, Just A Way.