Day At The Track

Connections 'waited a lifetime' for Roland N Rock

08:32 AM 06 Mar 2015 NZDT
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Roland N Rock
Roland N Rock

Louisville, KY --- His record stands at a perfect 14 for 14, he’s paced in 1:51.2 at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield and ended his freshman season with a triumph in the $86,000 American-National Stake over Earndawg, the Orange and Blue victor, so it’s pretty difficult to imagine getting Roland N Rock on stride was no simple task.

“He always wants to trot and we just let him do it now,” said his co-owner/trainer Duane Roland. “He’ll even trot right up until the gate, but once he’s racing he’s all pace. We have never had one problem with him breaking so we allow him to do whatever he wants.”

Born in Iowa, a son of Rocknroll Hanover and the Cambest mare Hank’s Chip, Roland N Rock competed primarily on the fair tracks in his native state and is the product of Duane and Connie Roland’s Harrisburg excursion in 2011.

The couple, whose entire family has been heavily involved in the sport since 1969, were hoping to cash in on the Perretti Farms dispersal of their broodmare band. After spending $6,000 for Hank’s Chip, who was already in foal, it appears the Rolands did just that.

“We have about 75 to 80 horses out here, with about 25 foals a year,” said the Grinnell resident, who owns, conditions and steers all his own stock. “We were looking for some mares in foal to Rocknroll Hanover, but we have a budget as we own a 1,500 acre farm that produces soybeans and corn. That is how we make our living and our horses are just for pleasure. We were able to purchase two mares, as we paid $9,000 for another, but her foal turned out nothing like Roland.”

As Roland N Rock paced his way through the Iowa fair circuit, offer after offer came through to buy him, but there was not even the most remote possibility they would sell.

“I am 47 years old and I’ve waited a lifetime for a horse like this,” Roland said. “My entire family is in this business and we have had some nice horses. My father Roger sold Panaramic Art for $60,000 and that was one of them, but I think this one is even more special.

“Ones like these sometimes never come along. I knew we had something different on my hands in July when he paced the fastest half in Iowa history (:57.2) at Oskaloosa. When John Delong got off him at Springfield, he said he could have went much faster and was very impressed with him. All the way back to the paddock after that race, people were asking me how much they could buy him for, while I just kept shaking my head.”

The Roland family certainly is a mainstay and/or cornerstone of the Iowa harness industry, as cousin Dan has grabbed headlines for his driving and brother Royal is no slouch in the sulky either. Royal is also a director for the United States Trotting Association and the treasurer for the Iowa Harness Horsemen’s Association. Duane is the secretary and Dan is on the board.

“We all have our own places, half-mile tracks and training facilities,” Roland said. “We race against each other because when we tried keeping our horses together, no one could agree on anything. We all have our own ideas on how things should be done and no one is willing to change that.”

There is, however, an alteration in the Roland family’s agenda for the summer of 2015.

“We think he is the real deal and we are taking him out East to race against the best,” Roland said. “We are coming with him as I want to do all the work on him myself. I could ship him out there to someone else, but this horse means a lot. Connie and I are looking forward to the journey.

“In fact, I just finished staking him and he’s in just about everything. There’s the Meadowlands Pace, the Progress Pace, the Matron and the Messenger. He will have to earn his way into the Jug or Lexington, but I think he will give a good account of himself. We just used the money he made to give him the opportunity. I don’t know about the Breeders Crown right now. That depends on how well he races.

“We are just very excited to have this kind of opportunity with him and to be on the road all summer long. I can’t explain the kind of thrill this horse has provided us with. He was so much better than these other horses, some guys were wondering if it would take the heart out of them having to chase him all the time and never being able to catch him.

“Also, you just can’t describe the feeling of holding a horse back for a half behind the entire field and just waiting for the chance to let them loose because you know he is going to go by them all. It’s absolutely unbelievable.”

by Kimberly French, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

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