HINSDALE, IL—With the return to his home state and a start in Sunday’s eighth race at Balmoral Park the former Illinois trotting champion Rock Hollywood has gone full circle for Springfield based horseman Mike Brink.
Back in 2009 Brink, the breeder, owner and trainer, thought he finally had that “special horse” in the big, good-looking gelding and so did plenty of other people after who saw Rock Hollywood breeze in his career debut in a small ICF stake..
Rock Hollywood is a son of Illinois stallion Psychic Spirit out of Brink's broodmare, Serfafine The Great, a daughter of Balanced Image.
"I've always believed the horse would be a good one and maybe that's why he wasn’t an easy horse to sell," explained Brink. "I hadn't been offered what I thought was a fair price for him until I got a call from Mr. (Kjell Magne) Andersen from Oslo, Norway, who had some people come out and look at him. I guess you could say Mr. Andersen made me an offer I couldn't refuse.”
That offer was reported to be six figures.
“Mr Andersen wanted a trotter to race in the Hambletonian and thought that Rock Hollywood could be that horse.”
The sale was made and five years later it has become a case of Brink “having his cake and eating it, too.”
Rock Hollywood went on to earn over $95,000 as a freshman in Illinois, winning both the Springfield State Fair and Lincoln Land Finals. At three the trotter made another $92,000-plus and posted a second Springfield championship. Those two years the horse went 7 for 14 under Brink’s care and 1-for-5 for Andersen’s east coast trainer.
As it turned out Rock Hollywood never did make it to the Hambletonian in New Jersey. Instead he made it to Norway.
From 2011 through three starts in 2014 Rock Hollywood competed in Norwegian races where, quite frankly, he flopped through no fault of his own. He won only one race in 33 starts over various distances in excess a mile and a made only little over $20,000 mostly because he developed a bleeding problem and Norway doesn’t allow Lasix.
We’ll let Mike explain how Rock Hollywood ended back in his home state.
“I saw the horse wasn’t doing any good so I talked to his owner and asked him what are you going to do with Rock Hollywood? He told me he might give him away to some ‘cowboy’ down the road who was going to use him as a riding horse.
“I asked if I could have him and he asked me what I was going to do with him. “I said hopefully put him on Lasix and race him. I told him I would pay the cost to fly him back if he gave me the horse. He said: ‘I’ll you what I’ll do, I’ll fly him back and give you half of the horse and keep the other half’ and that is what he did.
“It’s been seven years since foaled here and Rock Hollywood is still the nicest horse you can ever want to be around. He’s a big horse, about 17 hands. He looks the same as he did when he left but maybe not as well as I would like health-wise. But he’s ready to go now.
“I wasn’t sure how I wanted to race him in his qualifier and I then decided I would just let the horse race the way he wants to race. So I took him behind the gate with no over-check, no nothing, and off he goes.
“He was trotting along kind of easy-going and went the first quarter in 29 and change and the half around 59. When we got to the three-quarters somebody pulled and he took off and went a little faster. In the lane I look down at my watch and said to myself: ‘He’s going to qualify in 56.’ And he did with a 28.2 last quarter, winning by 17 lengths.
“The horse finished the qualifier cocky and all full of himself.
“With all those long distances he was racing the past few years that qualifying mile was nothing for him. I kept waiting for him to get a little tired and he kept waiting for me to ask him to go a little faster.
“I don’t know if he’ll be any good now that he’s back but it doesn’t matter. I’m just happy to have him back and I’m sure he feels the same way, too. I can always turn him out somewhere or give to some 12 year-old to ride.
“I do know it’ll be fun to drive him in a race Sunday.”
Despite the four months in between races I still think Rock Hollywood is a rock-solid play Sunday, so much so I made him my “Best Bet” of the night.
Mike Paradise, for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association