RACING evolves in ongoing bloodline cycles, a small number of top quality lines showing up often, others re-surfacing later than expected and some appearing unexpectedly after a while to remind us of their potency.
The “Rock Opera” cycle started in 2005 when the lightning fast Spies Racing filly by Lecture won the Gr1 Allan Robertson Championship at Scottsville and showed up again when Van Halen (Craig Zackey up) won Saturday’s Gr1 Gold Medallion at the same track.
It’s a 13-year success story, so far.
Rock Opera, exported to the UAE in 2006, produced the world-class miler Heavy Metal (GB), a 14-time winner, in 2010. He was still winning races in Dubai earlier this year.
In 2016, the Spies-trained filly Seattle Singer, bred from a half-sister to Rock Opera, finished second to Always In Charge in the Gold Medallion.
Van Halen is a son of Oratorio (Danehill), from Rock Concert (Lecture), a full sister to Rock Opera. He was purposefully bred along Heavy Metal’s Danehill x Lecture cross and, as previously reported, the Spies stable thought so highly of him they believed early on that he’d go through his career unbeaten.
Van Halen was beaten five times after his runaway debut win with no obvious excuses for his failures and trainer Tobie Spies said: “There were no apparent excuses, he seemed to go a bit off the boil in the Johannesburg Autumn Season, but when we brought him to Scottsville a month ago for the Godolphin Barb Stakes he ran a very good race in second to Dennis Bosch’s runner Cue The Music.
“Van Halen has been showing pace early and fading late, so we put some stamina work into him and it showed today as the opposite happened. He was off the pace early and ran on late. We didn’t think we could beat the Bosch colt on their last encounter but here we are, we did it and we are pleased Van Halen has finally shown what he is capable of. He is a really good horse.”
Van Halen is owned by the partnership of Fito Englezakis, Rob and Susan Macnab, Alfred Pawson and Fred van Wyk and Spies said: “Fito and Rob are long-time supporters of the stable, it is great to have won a Grade 1 race for them. Alfred is a new owner in the yard, he wasn’t here today but phoned us early to say that 15 was his lucky number and that today would be Van Halen’s day. Van Halen was number 15 and drawn 15. Well done to all!
Van Halen was bred by Limpo Retail from Avontuur Stud’s high-riding resident stallion Oratorio (a first Gr1 winner in SA), who also produced the second-placed Cue The Music. Van Halen has banked R600,000 from seven starts.
-Photo by Candiese Marnewick.