When More Than Ready (USA) colt Hit The Road (USA) won his first Grade 1 on Sunday morning Australian-time in the G1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile S., it was the culminating vict...
Hit The Road scores Group 1 success for Boomer

When More Than Ready (USA) colt Hit The Road (USA) won his first Grade 1 on Sunday morning Australian-time in the G1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile S., it was the culminating victory of a friendship that started over 15 years ago.

Meeting on the Darley Flying Start course in 2005, Boomer Bloodstock’s Craig Rounsefell and trainer Dan Blacker became fast friends. In the years since their graduation, they have also worked together sourcing horses for clients to race in California with Hit The Road one such horse.

Craig Rounsefell (right)

Inspecting horses at the 2018 Keenland September Yearling Sale, a colt by More Than Ready caught their attention. Bred for the turf and going through the ring early in the first session of the Sale, the colt being overlooked by other buyers was the perfect situation for Craig Rounsefell and Blacker.

“He hasn’t overly big although had a great shape, scope, a tremendous attitude and was a really good mover,” said Rounsefell. “He had a turf pedigree and we thought he might be overlooked so early in the Sale.  We followed him into the ring and it didn’t feel like anyone was bidding so I told Dan to hold fire and he [passed-in] for US$200,000 (AU$260,179). So we rushed back to the barn and got the deal done for US$160,000 (AU$195,134).”

That US$160,000 quickly proved to be a bargain when Hit The Road won the Listed Zuma Beach S. in his third start as a 2-year-old. The colt ended that year with two hard-luck races but he put that behind him at three.

He gave Blacker his first ever Graded stakes victory a month ago with a 3.75l victory in the G3 Thunder Road S. to kick off his campaign before taking it a step farther by giving him his first Grade 1 victory today.

“I gave myself 10 years to win a Grade 1 and luckily we got it done in year nine,” said Blacker. “I don’t want to make this about me. It’s all about the horse, he’s such a professional animal, he is a true racehorse. He was born that way he’s just a true athlete and so mentally focused on racing. I just feel so fortunate to have him and with him a great group of owners like Rick and Jim. Being with me for such a long time, they’ve been so patient, and I just really thrill for them all to get a win like this.”

An ocean away, Rounsefell had to watch the action from his car in Australia on his phone with his family with his mother-in-law Face-Timing from California.

“She was getting very excited so I knew Hit The Road was coming home strong! [Jockey Florent Geroux] is a good friend of our family and he couldn’t have ridden the race any better, getting the splits at the right time.”

Fittingly, it was 13 years ago after this race that Rounsefell had gotten McCall’s phone number. Her late father Mike Mitchell won the race with Ever A Friend (USA) (Crafty Friend {USA}) and a horse trained by Rounsefell’s boss finished second. While that 2008 race saw Ever A Friend win by 3.75l, Hit The Road preferred to win this edition by a slimmer margin.

Racing into the final 200 metres, Hit The Road had his head in front as Smooth Like Strait battled on and Flavius started to fade. He held on strongly to secure the win.

“It is incredibly satisfying to say the least,” Rounsefell said of seeing Dan get his first Grade 1. “Dan and I have been great mates since we met in 2005 on the Darley Flying Start and our families are extremely close, so it makes it extra special. Dan has toiled away in one of the hardest jurisdictions in the country so it makes me incredibly proud to be part of his first of many Grade 1 wins.”

Hit The Road is the latest top horse for his Group 2-winning grandam Wandering Star (USA) (Red Ransom {USA}), who is also the dam of Group 1 winner War Command (USA) (War Front {USA}) and Group 3 winner Navel Officer (USA) (Tale of the Cat {USA}).

A truly international pedigree, Wandering Star is also a full sister to the dam of G1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas winner Rollout The Carpet (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}).

With his pedigree and early race record, his ownership of D K Racing, Radley Equine, Taste of Victory Stables, Rick Gold, Tony Maslowski, and Dave Odmark had received interest from stud farms about his stallion rights before this race. But with their trainer telling them they had a Grade 1-talent in the barn they waited to see what his 4-year-old season held before making any deals.

“He is owned by a great group of owners, many of whom have been loyal to Dan since he started and even a few who had horses with my father-in-law back in the day,” Rounsefell explained. “There has been quite a bit of interest from studs as he is a stakes-winning two and 3-year-old with a deep European family, although Dan was confident he is a Grade 1 horse so the group have held back from doing anything before today.”

The owners are enjoying the victory before thinking of Hit The Road’s future at stud but Rounsefell is already looking forward to getting back to the United States to buy his next Hit The Road. While COVID-19 restrictions kept him from attention the Keeneland September Sale last year, he jokes that he may take a trip on a boat to get to the country this September if necessary.

Plans for the rest of Hit The Road’s 4-year-old campaign have not been mapped out yet though, they do have their eye on a certain early November race.

“[His next starts are] up to Dan although the Breeders’ Cup is in our favourite place this year – Del Mar!”