May 30, 2023

C Z Rocket lives up to name with Keeneland track record

C Z Rocket
C Z Rocket breaks the 6 1/2-furlong track record at Keeneland (Coady Photography)

Despite the scratch of multimillionaire Whitmore, Sunday’s 8TH race at Keeneland remained a quality allowance, and C Z Rocket underscored the point with a track-record performance. The 2.20-1 favorite didn’t make it easy on himself by flubbing the start, but recovered to stay perfect since joining Peter Miller.

C Z Rocket, the $800,000 topper at the 2016 OBS June 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, had been a stakes performer for original trainer Al Stall. The winner of the 2018 Kelly’s Landing S. and fourth in that summer’s Forego (G1), he was also fourth in the past two runnings of the Ack Ack (G3). The City Zip gelding descended to a $40,000 claimer at Oaklawn Park Apr. 30, and Miller snapped him up.

In his first start for new owner Tom Kagele, C Z Rocket was risked in a $50,000 claimer at Churchill Downs May 25 and promptly romped by 4 3/4 lengths. The 6-year-old was again available, for a $62,500 tag, in an allowance/optional claiming event at the same track, with a similar result. He was not for the taking in Sunday’s race.

Hopping at the break and finding himself last, C Z Rocket was given time to find his feet by a patient Florent Geroux. Up front, the 12-1 Copper Town, who was in for the $150,000 tag, was under fierce pressure from Fact Finding through fractions of :22.10 and :44.80.

Meanwhile, C Z Rocket had steadily improved his position, and turning for home, he was just a couple of lengths behind the leaders. Copper Town kicked away in the stretch to clock 6 furlongs in 1:08.79, but by that point, C Z Rocket had driven through the seam to challenge.

The one question was whether the favorite had expended too much energy just to reach that spot. Would C Z Rocket have enough to overtake the front runner, or flatten out?

C Z Rocket had plenty, rolling past Copper Town by three-quarters of a length and finishing 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.00. That clipped .05 off the record set by Limousine Liberal in an April 9, 2016, allowance, and continued the run of track or stakes marks set during this unprecedented July racing weekend at Keeneland.

True Timber ran evenly in third, and late-running Nitrous unleashed his typical rally to snare fourth. Mr. Money, the 3-1 second choice, appeared to be in a good stalking spot early but retreated to sixth of nine. Fact Finding trailed.

Whitmore was withdrawn in favor of the July 25 Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) at Saratoga, trainer Ron Moquett tweeted. Also scratched were Heartwood, Home Base, and The Tabulator.

C Z Rocket has compiled a mark of 20-7-1-2, $341,641. Bred by Farm III Enterprises in Florida, the bay is out of the Grade 3-placed Successful Sarah. This is the immediate family of multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Giant Expectations.

C Z Rocket’s pedigree sports an interesting pattern. Sire City Zip is bred on the cross of a Mr. Prospector-line stallion (Carson City) over an In Reality-line mare (by Relaunch), and dam Successful Sarah is bred on the reverse cross (by Successful Appeal out of a mare by Unreal Zeal).

With his proficiency at Keeneland and Miller’s knack for sprinters, it would not be a shock if C Z Rocket keeps progressing into a potential Breeders’ Cup candidate come the fall.