Rock Your World Reloads for Belmont

Rock Your World training at Belmont | Janet Garaguso


ELMONT, NY — After a forgettable run on the first Saturday in May, the previously unbeaten Rock Your World (Candy Ride {Arg}) will get his shot at redemption in the 153rd renewal of the GI Belmont S.

Off as the 9-2 second-choice in the GI Kentucky Derby following a jaw-dropping, front-running tally in the GI Runhappy Santa Anita Derby at third asking, the dark bay's race was over well before his well-documented trouble at the start that day, per co-owner Kosta Hronis.

“I think he showed a lot of immaturity,” Hronis said. “The walkover, I'm not sure how kind he was about that and all those people on the racetrack with him. I don't think he was happy then and he wasn't happy in the paddock getting his saddle on, either. He just wasn't a happy camper. It's not his fault. He had three races. It proves that old adage about needing to run as a 2-year-old to win the Derby. I can see why they say that now. His immaturity definitely came to the surface in those couple of hours before the race.”

Off a step slowly from post 15 in the Derby, jockey Joel Rosario briefly lost his right iron aboard the Hronis Racing and Michael Talla colorbearer after getting bounced around between rivals at the start. From there, it didn't get all that much better. In the end, Rock Your World reported home a disappointing 17th, beaten 24 1/2 lengths.

“He didn't break out of the gate,” Hronis said. “And they blamed the horses for bumping us, but you know what? I blame us. The horse didn't break. I knew when he got that third bump on the first turn he was done at that point. Those things happen, it's horse racing.”

Hronis Inc., a family-run business based in California's San Joaquin Valley, has been raising table grapes since 1945. Launched in 2010 by brothers Kosta and Pete, Hronis Racing quickly reached the top of the sport with 2018 GI Breeders' Cup Classic winner and champion older male Accelerate (Lookin At Lucky) and was also recognized as outstanding owner at that year's Eclipse Awards.

Other GISWs campaigned by Hronis Racing include: Stellar Wind (Curlin), Higher Power (Medaglia d'Oro), Hard Aces (Hard Spun), Lady of Shamrock (Scat Daddy), Gift Box (Twirling Candy), et al. Having a first runner on the Triple Crown trail, however, has been a different ball game for the operation currently boasting approximately 60 head in training.

“We've won a Breeders' Cup Classic, and, to me, that's the pinnacle of horse racing,” Hronis said. “But to be in the Kentucky Derby, that's really an honor. We really feel privileged to be a part of these special days. If anything, it's made me thirsty to try to get back. I don't think I had that before. But now that we've been there and experienced it, I'm ready for another Derby. I just haven't had Triple Crown fever up until now.”

Like his owner, the Belmont's potential controlling speed, ahem, is coming into the Big Apple hot. Produced by a MSW & MGISP daughter of 2003 Belmont hero Empire Maker, Rock Your World fired a five-furlong bullet in :58 2/5 (1/34) at John Sadler's Santa Anita base May 28.

“Now that he's been through that once–he got to come back home and take a breath–he's worked really well,” Hronis said. “Let's just hope that he breaks out of the gate and gives himself a chance. The 1 1/2 miles [of the Belmont] seems to be right up his alley. We're going in very optimistic that he's going to run good race.”

A stud deal to stand Rock Your World at Spendthrift Farm at the conclusion of his racing career was previously inked prior to the Kentucky Derby.

“They're born to be racehorses and we'd like that to continue as long as they want do that,” Hronis said. “Horses do let you know. I love Rock Your World, and as long as he's happy and competing well, we've all agreed that's what we want to do. And Spendthrift, I thank them. They reached out and took a chance on him and I'm hoping it pays big dividends for them.”

Bred in Kentucky by Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally and his wife Deborah, Rock Your World brought $650,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. Partnering up to go after some flashier offerings was a new approach employed by the Hronis family in 2019.

“This was an expensive horse,” Hronis said. “We had our eye on a few expensive horses, so instead of just tackling it by ourselves and picking one, we did three partnerships with some yearlings that were a little bit pricey. It lessens the risk. It's kind of like the stock market. You don't want all your stock in one thing. It's the first time that we've done that and I'm not sure if we'll do anything like that in the future again. It was a good idea to minimize our exposure on these really fancy horses. It's becoming a popular thing now, you see it more and more.”

In addition to Rock Your World, another one of those “fancy horses” posted one of the more impressive debut victories in recent memory at Santa Anita in late April. Flightline (Tapit) earned a gaudy 105 Beyer Speed Figure–the second highest on the year among sophomores–in a no-brainer 'TDN Rising Star' performance, romping by 13 1/4 lengths. The $1-million Fasig-Tipton Saratoga buy is campaigned in partnership along with Siena Farm LLC, breeder Summer Wind Equine and West Point Thoroughbreds.

“We're just trying to be really cautious with him because that may be the most talented horse that we've ever had in our barn,” Hronis said. “He is a special special horse.”

Flightline has yet to return the worktab, but remains in light training with Sadler at Santa Anita.

“I would've loved for him to come with Rock and run in the [GI] Woody Stephens [S. on the Belmont undercard],” Hronis said. “After his maiden win, that's what we were talking about. Then he told us, 'No.' We just have to keep everything spaced out for him. I'm sure when he's ready, we'll find a nice race for him. I'm honored to be partnered with that group.”

Rock Your World still didn't make the cross country trip from California alone. Hronis and Sadler will also be represented during this week's Belmont S. festival with GI Churchill Downs S. winner Flagstaff (Speightstown) in Friday's GII True North S. The duo also teamed up to capture the 2019 renewal with Catalina Cruiser (Union Rags).

“My daughter worked for NBC in New York for about four years, so we did experience the city a few times,” Hronis concluded. “It's a beautiful city. Being a California boy that lives out in the country, the big city is really not something we're used to. We live out on a ranch. I don't have a neighbor for two miles and that neighbor is my brother! I've never been there before on Belmont day. You see that lineup of races and they're all so historic. We're really looking forward to it.”

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