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Ken Casellas | Photo: Gloucester Park Harness Racing

Lightly-raced New Zealand-bred seven-year-old Rockaball was in a bad state after finishing last when racing first-up after a three-month absence a month ago. He was suffering from severe heat exhaustion and almost collapsed in the wash bay after the race.

“I was lucky that Mel McGregor (the course veterinarian) helped to look after him,” said part-owner and trainer Caris Hamilton-Smith. “It took him a long time to get over his heat exhaustion. We gave him a little rest when we were able to treat him for a few little niggles.”

Rockaball resumed racing when he contested the 2130m Hoist Torque Taking You To New Heights Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night when he gave a polished frontrunning display to score an easy victory over Whoswhointhezoo and Mcardles Gem.

“His work before tonight’s race was fantastic, and I felt he was nearly back to his best. It was basically trackwork for him (with a slow lead time of 38.2sec. and modest opening quarters of 31.5sec. and 30.1sec.) before he came home in 27.8sec. and 28.3sec., said Hamilton-Smith.

Rockaball, the $1.90 favourite, started from the prized No. 1 barrier and gave Micheal Ferguson an armchair drive. After winning at two of his 12 New Zealand starts Rockaball has had 28 starts in WA for Hamilton-Smith for nine wins and four placings to take his career record to 40 starts for 11 wins, seven placings and stakes of $92,679.

He is by Rock N Roll Heaven and is the first foal out of Shezaball, who raced 30 times for eight wins, eight placings and $57,320.

“Hopefully, there will be a group 2 race coming up soon in his grade,” said Hamilton-Smith. “I think he is a better horse, sat up, and I think he will make it to Free-For-All company.”

Rockaball suffered severe damage to his nearside foreleg when he stepped on a nail in a paddock in mid-2019, an injury which required surgery and kept him on the sidelines for 23 months.