A lot of precious metals come out of Western Australia, and a good deal of valuable horseflesh as well.
And in a breeding sense, Sunday’s Victoria Derby trial shone a glowing light on a WA mare with a golden touch so strong she’s turning blue – as in hen.
Gold Bullion (Savabeel) won the Derby Preview (1800m) at his fourth start to charge into calculations for the real thing at Flemington on November 4. If the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott gelding can succeed there – or at least claim a Group race at some point – it will elevate to breeding superstardom a second dam of a similar hue.
Gold Rocks, a daughter of talismanic WA sire Oratorio (Stravinsky), was a boom two-year-old when she emerged in 2008. She was bred and retained by Victoria’s Geoff and Heather Nicholls, out of Alozie (Luskin Star), whose eighth at Geraldton in her sole racetrack outing portended nothing of the familial glory to come.
Trained by Peter Giadresco, Gold Rocks won her first two starts at Belmont and Ascot by 3.75 lengths, which made her favourite when she resumed in the Listed Gimcrack Stakes. A middling fifth sent her to the prestigious Karrakatta Plate (Gr 2, 1200m) of 2009 an easing $14 pop, but she regained her best form to win by a length.
Putting her deeper into punters’ bad books, she was then a $5 second elect when a poor 12th in the WA Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m). She was switched to Victoria and David Bridoake, but after just one placing, in her seventh start there, she returned west to Simon Miller. He teased a first-up win out of her in July of 2010, but after five more unflattering runs the curtain fell on what was a curate’s egg of a career.
Sent back to the east for her stud career, however, far better lay ahead for Gold Rocks.
Her first foal’s first start brought black–type success. Calaverite (Lonhro) – named for a yellowish mineral that isn’t quite gold – took Randwick’s Gimcrack Stakes (Listed, 1000m) of 2014 for Godolphin and its then trainer John O’Shea, then added a Moonee Valley two-year-old Listed win at her fourth start.
Gold Rocks was sent across the Tasman in-foal to So You Think in 2013, in the care of Mark Chittick at Waikato Stud. The gold resumed, naming-wise, and the success continued. Her So You Think foal, Gold Rush, eclipsed her sibling by winning a Group 2 at her third start, in the Matamata Breeders Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m).
Two stakes winners out of two became three out of three for Gold Rocks when her filly by Waikato’s super sire Savabeel (Zabeel) – Gold Fever – repeated the trick in the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes, of 2017. She then came close to scoring Gold Rocks an elite-level win, when third in the ARC Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) of 2017. Gold Fever retired with three wins and three placings – two of them in black type – from just six starts.
The track success stopped with Gold Rocks’ fourth filly. More modestly named than her carat-heavy siblings, Gram (O’Reilly) was unraced, but would carry on her dam’s heritage at stud.
Gold Rocks went on to throw a fifth filly in Mary Gold (Ocean Park), who Chittick named after his own “dam” who – by quite the coincidence – had a maiden name of Gold. Mary Gold had just two runs, but has borne Chittick a now two-year-old gelding he’s named after another relative, Uncle Barry (Tivaci).
Finally, Gold Rocks had a colt, who’ll be familiar to Sydney racegoers, with Chittick this time naming after his maternal grandfather. Tommy Gold (Sacred Falls), from the O’Shea stable, had a win at Kensington and two Listed seconds, at Randwick and Flemington.
But if Gold Rocks’ offspring fared exceptionally well on the track, she’s done even better as a grandmother.
Calaverite did in fact turn to gold, throwing as her third foal Golden Mile (Astern), winner of last year’s Caulfield Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) plus three others stakes races so far, including his last start victory in the Theo Marks Stakes (Gr 2, 1300m) at Rosehill, which has him in the market for Saturday’s Group 1, the Epsom Handicap (Gr 1, 1600m) and the Golden Eagle (Gr 1, 1500m) on November 4..
Gold Rush threw, also as a third foal, Gold Bullion, who was bought by the China Horse Club-Newgate-Trilogy triumvirate for $400,000 at Magic Millions Gold Coast, and who would appear likely to start mining pure black type in the near future.
And while Gram was unraced, she’s blossomed as a broodmare, boasting as her first foal, Major Beel (Savabeel). The gelding brought more Group 1 glory to the family by winning this year’s Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2400m), and has returned this spring with the promise of more to come, judging by a second in the Chelmsford Stakes (Gr 2, 1600m), also at Randwick, which has helped put him among the main hopes for Saturday’s Metropolitan Stakes (Gr 1, 2400m).
Now 17, Gold Rocks has thrown just two more foals after 2017’s Tommy Gold.
Chittick opted to sell her seventh, a colt by Savabeel, at Karaka in 2020, where he fetched an unsurprisingly hefty $500,000 when sold to David Ellis. Now known as Medal, he would prove the right one to sell, having been swiftly onsold to Australia, where he’s bush class.
After a dead foal and two misses to Savabeel, Gold Rocks now has a yearling colt by Super Seth (Dundeel) on the ground, who Chittick will retain.
“He’s had a couple of little x-ray issues so we’ll keep him, have a bit of fun and race him,” says Chittick, who did a similar thing with another Savabeel colt with a wonky leg, who’s now won him the best part of $7 million – I Wish I Win.
“At the end of the day, Gold Rocks owes us nothing, so we’re happy to keep this one and take the yearling sale pressure off.”
So, with Group 1-winners Golden Mile and his “cousin” Major Beel, and the latter’s three-quarter brother Gold Bullion, all causing excitement this spring, it’s fair to say their grandmother Gold Rocks should be held in especially high esteem among modern broodmares.
“She’s been an amazing mare,” Chittick tells It’s In The Blood. “I wouldn’t say she’s the more gorgeous mare to look at, but she does have a nice personality and nature, and she’s done a bloody incredible job at stud.
“And the thing that amazes me is Major Beel and Gold Bullion are the first in that family to win past 1600 metres, so there’s a bit of versatility now coming into the family.”
Keeping the potent cross going, Gold Rocks has just been covered by Waikato’s second-year son of Savabeel, Noverre, with Chittick hopeful of another couple of foals from the mare.
As for Gold Bullion, what grabs the eye in his pedigree is a triplication of the influential American mare Special (Forli), at 5m x 6f, 6f. She appears through her super son Nureyev – the damsire of Savabeel’s sire Zabeel (Sir Tristram), who’s also the second sire of Gold Rocks’ father, Oratorio. Special also comes through Gold Rush’s top line via her daughter Fairy Bridge (Bold Reason), the dam of So You Think’s grandsire Sadler’s Wells (Northern Dancer).
Gold Bullion also has a 3f x 5f duplication of relatively potent sire Success Express (Hold Your Peace) via two different daughters. He’s the sire of Savabeel’s dual Group 1-winning dam Savannah Express, and of Oratorio’s unraced dam, Express A Smile.
Meanwhile, Gold Rush is now in the ownership of Webjet managing director and burgeoning breeder John Guscic, of Aristia Park Bloodstock. He bought her via Paul Willetts Bloodstock for $295,000 – in foal with Gold Bullion – in 2020, from a Rosemont Stud online sale. She has an Ocean Park (Thorn Park) yearling filly and was covered last spring by Wootton Bassett (Iffraaj).