El Roca lives up to expectations

A first-starter holding a nomination for the Gr.1 $A3 million Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on October 26 was always going to attract huge attention and that was the case with El Roca at Taupo today.

Trainers Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young had form students rushing to their computers checking up details of El Roca when the Fastnet Rock three-year-old was thrown into the entries for Australia’s richest weight-for-age event.

And the Cox Plate isn’t the only Melbourne feature in which El Roca holds a nomination. He has also been nominated for the Gr.1 $A1 million Beck Caulfield Guineas (1600m) at Caulfield on October 12.

With such hype around El Roca, all eyes were on him when he made his debut in the Fully Fledged at Fairdale 1000 at Taupo today and in the hands of Leith Innes he didn’t let his fans down.

He was in touch with the pace from the outset and when Innes got him into full stride in the run home, he kicked strongly to put a length and three-quarters on the runner-up, Lucky Feather, who had been placed in half his six starts last season.

“We’re dreaming thinking about the Cox Plate and the Caulfield Guineas, but he’s a very smart horse,” said Busuttin. “He’s got to improve a lot from today’s race and he’s got to put his mind on the job more. It’s early days yet, but he’s impressed me with everything he’s done.”

El Roca won both his juvenile trials last year, the first being 12 months ago at Te Teko and the other last December at Cambridge. He again stepped out at the Cambridge trials last March and finished a sound third.

El Roca is raced by a big syndicate which includes several members who have had such a great innings with stablemate Sangster, winner of the Gr.1 Victoria Derby, Gr.1 Auckland Cup and Gr.1 Darci Brahma International Stakes.

El Roca is from Rubimill, an unraced sister to Millrich, who won the Gr.3 STC Sweet Embrace Stakes and was third in the Gr.1. Golden Slipper Stakes.

“He’ll got to Hastings now for the 1200 metre race on the first day of the carnival on August 31, then go back there for the Hawke’s Bay Guineas,” said Busuttin. “We’ll think about Aussie after that.”

Third behind El Roca today was another very promising Cambridge three-year-old, Atlante, who had won a trial at Cambridge last March, the same day El Roca finished third in another heat.

Trained by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, Atlante (also by Fastnet Rock) ran on strongly after losing ground coming to the home turn. He should have no trouble winning at very short notice.