By Jon Forbes | 06/09/2010 03:05 PM ET
Jimmy Jerkens knew he had a talented colt in Devon Rock, but wasn’t sure if the 3-year-old son of Rock Hard Ten would prove best on the dirt or the turf. The trainer received an empathetic answer on Saturday when Devon Rock kicked away to a 2¼-length victory in a one-mile turf event at Belmont Park.
Devon Rock was purchased by Centennial Farms for $440,000 at the 2009 Keeneland April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale (video of his pre-sale workout) and trained at Palm Meadows in Florida, where he posted 12 workouts, including a 1:00 five-furlong drill on the turf on March 14. Jerkens elected to have the sophomore debut in a one-mile over the Belmont main track on April 30, and the colt finished third, 7¼ lengths behind fellow New York Watch subject Christmas for Liam.
“He worked really well on [the turf] in Florida, but we wanted to give him some experience on the dirt, too,” said Jerkens. “He worked well enough to probably win on the dirt. He’s not one of those horses that absolutely has to run on the grass.”
Nevertheless, Devon Rock was switched to the turf for his second outing. Part of a coupled entry that was backed as the 5-2 second choice, he pressed favored Avenging Spirit through a half in a moderate 47.52, asserted control at the quarter pole, and drew clear under left-handed urging to stop the clock in 1:34.81.
“We were confident today because we thought he’d like the grass even better,” said Jerkens. “He has a lot of talent – I think he’ll be all right.”
Jerkens doesn’t know when Devon Rock will race next, although a jump directly into stakes competition is possible. One thing is for certain: the dark bay will remain on the grass.
Although Devon Rock’s sire Rock Hard Ten is best known for winning the 2005 Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on the dirt, his grandsire, Kris S., is a notable turf influence. Devon Rock’s second dam, Peruvian champion La Chaposa, produced the 1995 Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap winner You and I, who like Rock Hard Ten is a son of Kris S. La Chaposa is also the dam of the 1995 Grade 1 Test and 1996 Grade 1 Ballerina winner Chaposa Springs.
Many of the industry’s brightest stars embarked upon their careers at the NYRA tracks, including a number of recent Triple Crown race winners. Super Saver, Big Brown, Jazil, Birdstone, Funny Cide, and Empire Maker are all among the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes victors that kick-started their careers at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, or Saratoga.
The list also includes recent champions Gio Ponti and Indian Blessing; brilliant fillies Flashing, Little Belle, and Music Note; and the current top older male Quality Road, who has won three Grade 1 races so far in his career, including this year’s Metropolitan Handicap.