Rich Hill Mile taken out by On The Rocks

Jake Bayliss pushed himself to the limit in a bid to ride On The Rocks at Ellerslie this afternoon, and his efforts were rewarded with Group Two glory in the $100,000 Rich Hill Mile.

Bayliss, whose regular riding weight is listed at 54 kilograms, missed most of December through suspension.

The Matamata-based Australian made a triumphant comeback at Ellerslie on Boxing Day, winning the Gr. 2 Eight Carat Classic on Pinmedown for Mike Moroney and Pam Gerard.

Bayliss was determined to wear the same colours today aboard On The Rocks, who was assigned the minimum weight of 52 kilograms. After a gruelling week, during which he tweeted a photo of himself mowing lawns in heavy winter clothing, he took the mount half a kilogram over

"Pam told me this time last week that he'd be running in this race with 52 kilograms," said Bayliss, whose mother Kellie was on-course for his win on Boxing Day and again today.

"I wanted to give it my best shot. He's one of my favourite horses, so I really wanted to be on him. It was a lot of hard work, I was basically a vegetarian there for a week, so I'm keen for a good steak tonight. He's done great, but don't expect me to get down to 52.5 kilograms again any time soon."

On The Rocks was a multiple stakes winner last season in the Listed Trevor Eagle Memorial and the Gr. 2 Avondale Guineas, the latter with Bayliss in the saddle.

The Alamosa entire resumed with an encouraging third over 1500 metres at Ellerslie early last month, and today he went to a new level against a quality open handicap field.

After settling in a midfield position, Bayliss angled On The Rocks to the outside at the top of the straight. He produced a sparkling turn of foot to reel in the front-running The Mitigator and win by three-quarters of a length.

Tiptronic ran on well to take second place by half a length from the brave The Mitigator. Magnum and Yorkshire Dales were close up in fourth and fifth.

"He did it with plenty up his sleeve," Bayliss said.

Raced by a big group of owners who flooded into the winners' circle after the race, On The Rocks has now had 10 starts for four wins, two placings and more than $190,000 in prize-money.

He was a $40,000 yearling purchase at Karaka by Moroney's brother Paul.

"It was a big win," Moroney said. "He's a lovely horse - he's a bit under-rated.

"Jake gave him a very good ride. He had to waste hard to do it, and especially after a few weeks off with suspension where he put on a bit of weight.

"A couple of weeks ago I was going to take this horse to Australia, but Pam convinced me to keep him here. She's done a great job with the horse.

"We were going to run him in the Dunstan 1500 on Boxing Day, but it poured with rain and we decided to run him here instead. It was a great performance.

"He's safe from Australia for now, and we'll look at the Thorndon Mile (Trentham, January 19) and Herbie Dyke Stakes (Te Rapa, February 9)."

Today's result had added significance for Moroney, and also for race sponsor Rich Hill Stud's John Thompson.

"We've had a great relationship with Mike over a number of years, and he was one of the first to put our stallion Pentire on the map with horses like Penny Gem and the great Xcellent," Thompson said. Moroney added that Rich Hill's location in Walton, near Matamata, was where he grew up.

- THE INFORMANT

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