Latest News

Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators

Oakford trainer Caris Hamilton-Smith achieved her biggest success in harness racing when rank outsider Rockaball stormed home from the rear to win the Fly Like An Eagle group 3 Warwick Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

The victory at tote odds of $112.60  gave the 29-year-old Hamilton-Smith her first success in a group feature event and was a just reward for her patience with the New Zealand-bred six-year-old whose career was in doubt two years ago.

Rockaball was off the scene for 23 months after complications set in after the gelding trod on a fencing nail in his paddock.

Before that, he had damaged a tendon in a race at Gloucester Park. “He recovered and on his way back he stepped on a nail which almost pierced his tendon in his nearside front leg,” said Hamilton-Smith.

“The hole in his hoof became infected and he underwent surgery to dig out the infection. Then we had to wait for the foot to re-grow, basically, and he was confined to a box for six months.”

Hamilton-Smith nursed Rockaball back to full strength and the gelding resumed racing in June this year with successive wins at Narrogin and Northam, followed by a splendid effort in finishing second to Alta Engen in a heat of the John Higgins Memorial before he started from a wide barrier, covered a lot of extra ground and finished last behind See Ya Write in the final of the Higgins.

Rockaball then finished a fair seventh in the group 2 $50,000 San Simeon Classic before Hamilton-Smith freshened him up for a tilt at the $30,000 Warwick Pace in which he drew the outside barrier (No. 9) for his first appearance for seven weeks.

Colin Brown’s Regal Cheval was the $2.20 favourite from barrier one, and was generally expected to set the pace. However, Michael Grantham had different ideas, and he got the Michael Brennan-trained Withoutthetuh ($14) away brilliantly from barrier seven to forge to the front after 100m.

Micheal Ferguson settled Rockaball down in tenth position, while Be My Rock ($6.50) surged forward to work in the breeze. Rockaball was tenth at the bell, and he dashed forward, three wide, at the 600m before Cody Wallrodt eased $26 chance Allwood Glow out three wide, thus giving Rockaball an ideal trip.

Rockaball sustained his strong burst and got to the front 50m from the post before beating Withoutthetuh by 2m at a 1.57.4 rate over the 2130m journey. Regal Cheval fought on along the inside to be third, just ahead of Allwood Glow.

The 24-year-old Ferguson said that Hamilton-Smith had given Rockaball a couple of weeks off to freshen up the horse. “And this has done him the world of good,” he said.

“We had no set plans from the outside barrier. We thought that if they went hard, it would suit him. Otherwise, we would be looking for short cuts. They went hard, which was perfect, and at the bell I thought it was time to go. Then Cody came out in front of us which was handy. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip.”

Rockaball is raced by Hamilton-Smith, her father Geordie and her uncle Lindsay Hamilton-Smith. He is by Rock N Roll Heaven and is the first foal out of Shezaball, who had 30 starts for eight wins, eight placings and $57,320 in stakes.

He was recommended to Hamilton-Smith by an agent in New Zealand and cost $40,000 landed in Western Australia. His 17 WA starts have produced seven wins and three placings for earnings of $51,784.