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Rock Sand

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Rock Sand

Rock Sand
Sire Sainfoin
Grandsire Springfield
Dam Roquebrune
Damsire St. Simon
Sex Stallion
Foaled 1900
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Colour Brown
Breeder Sir James Miller
Owner Sir James Miller
August Belmont, Jr. (at stud)
Trainer George Blackwell
Record 20: 16-1-3
Earnings £47,913[1]
Major wins
Woodcote Stakes (1902)
Coventry Stakes (1902)
Champagne Stakes (1902)
Dewhurst Stakes (1902)
2,000 Guineas (1903)
Epsom Derby (1903)
St. Leger Stakes (1903)
St. James's Palace Stakes (1903)
Hardwicke Stakes (1904)
Princess of Wales's Stakes (1904)
Jockey Club Stakes (1904)
10th U.K. Triple Crown Champion (1903)
Last updated on 28 September 2006

Rock Sand (1900–1914) was a British Thoroughbred race horse and sire. In a career which lasted from the spring of 1902 until October 1904 he ran twenty times and won sixteen races. After being a leading British two-year-old of his generation he became the tenth winner of the Triple Crown in 1903, winning the 2,000 Guineas Stakes the Epsom Derby and the St. Leger Stakes. He won another series of major races as a four-year-old before being retired to stud, where he had success in both Europe and North America.


  • Background 1
  • Racing career 2
    • 1902: two-year-old season 2.1
    • 1903: three-year-old season 2.2
    • 1904: four-year-old season 2.3
  • Assessment 3
  • Stud record 4
  • Pedigree 5
  • References 6


Rock Sand was a small Newmarket, Suffolk.

Rock Sand was a notably bad mover in his slower paces: those unfamiliar with his gait frequently assumed that he was lame when he trotted or cantered to the start before his races.[4] He was also criticised early in his career by some observers who felt that he was too small to be a Derby winner.[5]

Racing career

1902: two-year-old season

As a two-year-old, Rock Sand began his racing career by winning the Bedford Stakes at the Newmarket Spring meeting. He then won the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom, the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Chesterfield Stakes at Newmarket on July 17 and the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September, ridden on each occasion by the American Danny Maher. By the end of summer he was being described as the best two-year-old of the season.[6] At Newmarket on October he suffered his first defeat when beaten as the even money favourite for the Middle Park Stakes. The race was won by his stable companion Flotsam (ridden by Maher) with Greatorex second and Rock Sand, ridden on this occasion by William Lane third.[7] Two weeks later Rock Sand defeated the King's colt Mead by three lengths to win the Dewhurst Stakes with Greatorex third.[8] As the horses went into the winter break, Rock Sand was 4/1 favourite for the following year's Derby, with Flotsam the second choice.[9]

1903: three-year-old season

On his first race as a three-year-old Rock Sand won the Bennington Stakes, a minor race at Newmarket's Craven meeting.[10] In the 2000 Guineas on 29 April he started 6/4 favourite in a field of eleven runners, with Sermon on 6/1 and Flotsam on 7/1. Ridden by the American jockey Skeets Martin he tracked Flotsam in the early stages before moving into the lead just after half way and winning easily by one and a half lengths from Flotsam, with Rabelais third.[11] The Sportsman magazine noted that Rock Sand was a rather lazy colt who "does not gallop until he is compelled to".[12]

Danny Maher ca. 1900.

The Derby at Epsom attracted a field of seven runners, the smallest of the twentieth century. Rock Sand was ridden by Danny Maher (right) and started favourite at 4/6 in front of a crowd which included the Prince and Princess of Wales.[13] Rock Sand started quickly and took an early advantage before the Royal colt Mead took over and led until just before the turn into the straight, where Maher moved Rock Sand back into the lead. The French-trained second favourite Vinicius came from well back in the field to emerge as the main challenger in the last quarter mile but could never catch Rock Sand who won by two lengths, with Flotsam two lengths further back in third.[14] It was the first of three Derby winners for Maher and the third successive win for an American jockey following the wins of Lester Reiff in 1901 and Skeets Martin in 1902.[15]

Rock Sand followed up his Derby win with a run at Royal Ascot where he took the St. James's Palace Stakes over one mile from three "moderate" opponents at odds of 1/10.[16] He then faced older horses for the first time when he was sent to Sandown for the Eclipse Stakes. The 1903 running of the Eclipse Stakes on 17 July was one of the notable races of the early 20th century when Rock Sand faced the previous year's Derby winner Ard Patrick and the filly, Sceptre who had won the other four British Classic Races in 1902. The race thus brought together "the three best horses in England",[17] and perhaps "the most valuable field of horses that ever started in a race in any part of the world".[18] The King was among the immense crowd which was drawn to Sandown for the "Battle of Giants".[19] The odds at the start were 5/4 Rock Sand, 7/4 Sceptre and 5/1 Ard Patrick. Rock Sand disputed the lead with Oriole in the early stages but was challenged and overtaken by Ard Patrick before the turn into the straight. He faded in the closing stages and finished third, beaten a neck and three lengths by Ard Patrick and Sceptre who fought out a "desperate finish".[20] The contest was favourably compared to the race for the 1887 Hardwicke Stakes between Ormonde, Minting and Bendigo.[21]

On 9 September at Doncaster, Rock Sand attempted to complete the Triple Crown in the St Leger. Only four horses opposed him and he was sent off the 2/5 favourite. He reportedly had thing "all his own way"[22] and won easily by four lengths from William Rufus, with Mead in third. Rock Sand's final start of the season came in the £10,000 Jockey Club Stakes over one and three quarter miles at Newmarket on 1 October. Ard Patrick had been retired by this time but Rock Sand was opposed by Sceptre. Rock Sand was beaten four lengths by the filly, who was conceding eighteen pounds– nine pounds more than weight-for-age[23] and won with "consummate ease".[24]

Rock Sand's earnings of £22,633[25] in 1903 enabled his sire Sainfoin to his best position of second on the list of leading sires.[26]

1904: four-year-old season

On his four-year-old debut, Rock Sand ran against Sceptre again in June over the Derby course and distance in the Coronation Cup, a race which also featured the first meeting between Rock Sand and his contemporary Zinfandel, a colt whose engagements in the previous year's classics had been rendered void by the death of his owner Colonel Harry McCalmont. Zinfandel won easily from Sceptre, with Rock Sand third.[27]

Rock Sand avoided Zinfandel for the remainder of the season and was unbeaten in his remaining five races. He won the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, beating Sceptre for the first time. He was then an easy, odds-on winner of the £10,000 Princess of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket on 30 June from Saltpetre (who won the Goodwood Cup on his next start) and William Rufus. Sceptre was not allowed to run in the race as her former owner, R. S. "Bob" Sievier had been "warned off" (banned from any involvement in racing).[28] It was reported that Lillie Langtry, the former mistress of King Edward VII, eased her financial difficulties by winning £100 on the race.[29] A few days later Rock Sand added the Lingfield Park Stakes, beating Loch Ryan and Henry the First.[30] and later in July he won the Newmarket First Foal Stakes. Rock Sand ended his racing career in the £10,000 Jockey Club Stakes on 29 September in which he defeated Henry the First and William Rufus, with the Derby winner St. Amant unplaced.[31] Before the race his action looked even worse than usual as he hobbled to the start "like a cripple",[4] but won impressively and was given an enthusiastic reception by the Newmarket crowd which greeted the joint-favourite's success with "deafening cheers".[32]

Rock Sand's winning prize money of £19,719 made him the highest earner of the British season ahead of the filly Pretty Polly.[33] He was kept in training until the spring of 1905 with the aim of running in the Ascot Gold Cup, but persistent tendon trouble forced his retirement.[34]


Despite winning more top class races than most Derby winners, Rock Sand was never rated very highly, although it was acknowledged that he was "unmistakably... a high-class racehorse".[35] His success in the Triple Crown was seen as arising from the generally poor quality of his rivals and the enforced absence of Zinfandel[24][36] an impression reinforced by his defeat by Zinfandel in 1904.[37] In their book A Century of Champions, John Randall and Tony Morris rated Rock Sand an "average" Derby winner.[38]

Stud record

Rock Sand retired to stud in England, but when James Miller died in 1906 he was put up for sale. He was bought for £25,000 for breeding purposes by the American, August Belmont, Jr., who sent him to his stud farm in Lexington, Kentucky. His arrival in the United States was not trouble-free as it took more than an hour before he could be persuaded to walk down the gangplank from the ship which had brought him to America.[39] In Kentucky, he sired:

The banning of wagering on horse racing in certain U.S. states forced Belmont to sell Rock Sand to a syndicate who shipped him to France in 1912. He became a difficult horse to manage, eating his bedding straw and kicking the walls of his stable. He died of heart disease on 20 July 1914.[40] His skeleton can be seen in the Gallery of Comparative Anatomy & Paleontology at the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle in Paris, France.


Pedigree of Rock Sand (GB), brown stallion, 1900
St.Albans Stockwell
Viridis Marsyas
Maid of Palmyra
Wenlock Lord Clifden
Sandal Stockwell
Lady Evelyn
St. Simon
Galopin Vedette
Flying Duchess
St.Angela King Tom
Hermit Newminster
Devotion Stockwell
Alcestis (Family: 4-n)[41]
  • Rock Sand was inbred 4x4x4 to Stockwell, meaning that this stallion appears three times in the fourth generation of his pedigree.[42]


  1. ^ "TURF NOTES". Wairarapa Daily Times. 14 November 1904. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  2. ^ Ahnert, Rainer L. (Ed. in Chief), “Thoroughbred Breeding of the World”, Pozdun Publishing, Germany, 1970
  3. ^ Leicester, Sir Charles (1974). Bloodstock Breeding. London: J.A. Allen & Co. p. 200.  
  4. ^ a b Mortimer, Roger; Onslow, Richard; Willett, Peter (1978). Biographical Encyclopedia of British Flat Racing. Macdonald and Jane’s.  
  5. ^ "SIZE IN RACEHORSES". Otago Witness. 10 June 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  6. ^ "TALK OF THE DAY". Otago Witness. 3 September 1902. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  7. ^ "ENGLISH RACING". Auckland Star. 20 October 1902. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  8. ^ "IN A NUTSHELL". Otago Witness. 17 December 1902. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  9. ^ "SPORTING NOTES". Star. 23 January 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  10. ^ "SPORTING NOTES". Star. 5 June 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  11. ^ "RACING IN ENGLAND". Otago Witness. 10 June 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  12. ^ "THE RACING WORLD". Auckland Star. 20 June 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  13. ^ "The Derby". Colonist. 29 May 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  14. ^ RACING IN ENGLAND. Otago Witness. 15 July 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  15. ^ SPORT AND PASTIME. Evening Post. 18 July 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  16. ^ IN A NUTSHELL. Otago Witness. 5 August 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  17. ^ "SANDOWN PARK". Star. 18 July 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  18. ^ "IN A NUTSHELL". Otago Witness. 29 July 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  19. ^ "A BATTLE OF GIANTS". Otago Witness. 2 September 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  20. ^ "RACING IN ENGLAND". Otago Witness. 22 July 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  21. ^ "ENGLISH RACING". Auckland Star. 26 August 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  22. ^ "SPORTING NOTES". Star. 29 October 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  23. ^ "SPORTING". Star. 2 October 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  24. ^ a b "THE Racing World". Auckland Star. 14 November 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  25. ^ "THE FIGURE SYSTEM". Otago Witness. 27 January 1904. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  26. ^ "SPORT AND PASTIME. The Turf". Evening Post. 5 December 1903. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  27. ^ "ENGLISH RACING". Press. 4 June 1904. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  28. ^ "SPORTING NEWS". Star. 6 July 1904. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  29. ^ "IN A NUTSHELL". Otago Witness. 24 August 1904. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  30. ^ "SPORTING NOTES". Star. 18 August 1904. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  31. ^ "SPORTING". Evening Post. 30 September 1904. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  32. ^ "SPORT AND PASTIME". Evening Post. 12 November 1904. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  33. ^ "TALK OF THE DAY". Otago Witness. 18 January 1905. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  34. ^ Patricia Erigero Thoroughbred Heritage (1914-07-20). "Rock Sand". Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  35. ^ "SPORTING NEWS". Star. 5 October 1904. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  36. ^ "SPORTING NEWS". Star. 15 January 1904. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  37. ^ "FAR AND NEAR". Star. 13 July 1904. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  38. ^ Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1999). A Century of Champions. Portway Press,.  
  39. ^ [ Displaying Abstract ] (17 July 1906). "ROCK SAND CAUTIOUS IN MAKING A LANDING". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  40. ^ Patricia Erigero Thoroughbred Heritage (1914-07-20). "Rock Sand". Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  41. ^ "St. Marguerite - Family 4-n". Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  42. ^ Morris, Simon; Tesio Power 2000 - Stallions of the World, Syntax Software
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