Jun 14, 2020

By the time of the en bloc acquisition of a plane load of mares by Mayfair/CTS from Coolmore, ROCK OF GIBRALTAR (IRE) was already on the wane commercially in UK and Ireland. At HQ in Fethard, visitors trooped in and out to see this one or that one or those from amongst the eighteen residents but rarely “Rockie”.

There was, however, method in the madness of extensive use of Rockie on the mares bound for South Africa and we may yet benefit from it.  

The stallion at the time had a love affair with South Africa to the extent of a handful of high level imported winners. Nevertheless, there was a politely suppressed ripple of reaction around the room amongst European visitors at the lavish Cape Premier cocktail party next to the Taj Hotel when a speech-maker announced the acquisition of southern hemisphere rights to Rock of Gibraltar.

My familiar use, here, of “Rockie” came from a Coolmore visit just after the first SA-bound package of mares has been announced, including plenty in foal to this son of Danehill. (His actual name has been inspired by his dam, Offshore Boom by the wonderful broodmare sire Be My Guest, reflecting Gibraltar’s lenient tax status and the propensity of British businesses, including bookmakers, to register there).

My companions had seen what they wanted to see, so I popped off with a Coolmore man who has been there for ever to find Rock of Gibraltar, commenting on the mare package as we walked. Pushing the gate open in his paddock, the cry went up “Hey Rockie, somebody wants ya!”.  The amiable horse looked up and trotted over to meet us half way across the huge field, happy to say Hello.

He had of course achieved notoriety way beyond thoroughbred circles. The winning owner of the historic Gimcrack Stakes (2 year olds) at York delivers the “Gimcrack Speech” at a glittering York Race Committee event. Just after the Millennium, Coolmore interests were in the process of acquiring what became nearly 30% of Manchester United and, on winning the Gimcrack, nominated Sir Alex Ferguson to give the speech, on the basis that Sheikh Mohammed did not give the speech himself but had a lieutenant attend and read it out. York refused. So a plan was hatched at Coolmore whereby half of a Gimcrack candidate was gifted to Sir Alex (because at the time in Ireland 50% of a horse had to be owned for colours to be carried). The rest is history. Rock of Gibraltar ran in the Ferguson colours and won (click to see) then won seven Group 1s. Unfortunately there was an unsavoury legal battle when the horse retired to stud over his ownership as a stallion and, in parallel, over the role of football agents at Man U. As reported globally, a 9-figure (£) law suit against Coolmore brought by Ferguson was settled out of court for 7-figures and Coolmore interests soon sold their shareholding in the football club to the incoming Glaziers.

Within the package of mares for South Africa, it was entirely reasonable to observe that Coolmore had exported at various levels. Some were advancing in years and had done little, but there were also some highlights and who is to say which would give best contribution to the refreshment of genes?

The process seeded South Africa with a number of Rock of Gibraltars in utero, some of them appearing at subsequent sales as yearlings and it is from amongst those that yearling buyers now would do well to research. As well as keeping an eye open here for dams sired by him in Australia when he shuttled.

Rockie is a respected value stallion if not by the “must run tomorrow” brigade. But what he is now is a very good broodmare sire indeed.

The icing on the cake since restart took the form of KAMEKO winning the English 2,000 Guineas the other day very impressively in the Qatar Racing silks, bursting PINATUBO’s bubble.

By Kitten’s Joy, this fellow joined other June scorers out of Rock of Gibraltar mares such as COACHELLO a 2 year old winner of a debutants race by Dunkerque; Group 3 winning 3 year old EBAIYRA by Distorted Humour and several others this month so far.

Meanwhile, TEN YEAR TICKET won the Listed Trial Stakes at Leopardstown – by Rock of Gibraltar.

His influence in South Africa is studied closely by matings buffs. Danehill, at the forefront of broodmare sires, is famously in bred 3×3 to Natalma. Be My Guest is one of the great sires of producing daughters and was by Northern Dancer.

Thus “Rockie” is in bred 4x4x4 to Natalma.

Pebbles of Gibraltar have been lobbed into the South Africa gene pool and their ripples bear close examination.