Win or lose this Saturday, Rockem is already the pride of Bill and Patti Gira's Oldfield Farm in Michigan. Watching via simulcast, the Giras will cheer on the three-year-old pacer they bred in the $100,000 Summer Survivor final
at Meadowlands Racetrack.
Three-for-three in the series prelims, Rockem bids for the sweep from Post 10 as the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. David Miller has the driving assignment. Waldy Jimmy, a two-time Summer Survivor winner, received the slight nod as the 3-1 favourite from Post 7.
Oldfield Farm, located just outside Adrian, Michigan, was established by Patti Gira's parents in 1965. In 1985, she and her husband Bill purchased the modest 130 acres and expanded it from a private farm to a public facility that offers boarding, care and a sales agency. They started breeding mares when Doug Ackerman and his partner, the late Richard Staley, moved Armbro Cadet to their farm to stand at stud. The Giras purchased Rockem's dam, Dont Toy With Me, when Staley's mares were dispersed after his death in 1997.
"At that time we realized that we needed to upgrade our broodmare band," noted Patti Gira. "I asked Doug which mare would make the best broodmare and he told me emphatically that Dont Toy With Me was the one to own. We purchased her right away and she has been our best mare ever since, producing the winners of [$1,864,984], including Action Figure [p, 1:49.4m; $705,123]."
Gira wanted to match Dont Toy With Me with one of the sport's leading stallions and, with owner Jeff Snyder's help, was able to secure a breeding to Rocknroll Hanover. Snyder later purchased Rockem for $65,000 at the Lexington Selected yearling sale.
"We were thrilled when 'Toy' produced a beautiful stud colt for us in 2008," she said, "but it was the start of the most stressful 16 months of my life getting him raised and to the sale in perfect condition."
Among the talented horses Oldfield Farm has raised is Modern Connection (p, 2, 1:52.1; $462,297), the 2010 runner-up for Canada's O'Brien Award, who went undefeated in Ontario Sires Stakes. They were also fortunate to breed, raise and own Thin Blue Line (p,1:50.3f; $799,444) winner of the 2005 Windy City Pace at Maywood Park.
"As a small breeder in this industry, it is very hard to get a horse racing in the upper or mid-level classes at the Meadowlands, and even rarer to have bred the undefeated winner of all three legs," Gira said. "We were always especially proud of 'Rocky' as a baby and when we sold him as a yearling in Lexington. We realize that the trainer and owners deserve the accolades, but he has a cheering section here in Michigan, his home state. 'Rocky' will always be special to us and we couldn't be prouder of him. We wish all of his connections the best of luck in the final."
Trained by Casie Coleman, Rockem has won six of his 11 career starts and $41,792. He took a mark of 1:51.4 in the third bracket of the Summer Survivor Series on June 16. The gelding looks to rebound in the final after a rare miscue at the start of his New Jersey Sire Stakes division last week.
"He's been racing great," Coleman said. "I can't be any happier with him. Last week, he was rushed a bit too much and got ill-gaited. I hope to have that corrected this week. I think he's as good as anyone in there, but, he got handicapped with post position 10. Hopefully, Dave can work us out a trip. He gets along with this horse great.
"He's lightly staked," Coleman added. "He has the sire stakes and a few other races we can look at. After this final he has a much-deserved couple of weeks off."
The Summer Survivor final shares the spotlight with the $220,750 Titan Cup, headlined by 9-5 favourite Arch Madness. The Saturday night card also features the first leg of the New Jersey Sire Stakes for two-year-old colt and gelding pacers, and an open event for three-year-olds featuring several Meadowlands Pace eligibles.
(With files from Meadowlands Racetrack)