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Letting It Ride

Published: July 2, 2015 2:41 pm ET

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“Whatever happens, this is like an experience no one that I know ever gets to do. Who gets to train their own horse and go to New Jersey and race in the Meadowlands Pace?”

Duane and Connie Roland hope to rock the Meadowlands Pace later this month, but first they will prep their three-year-old pacer for the big event by competing in one of the 10 Landmark Stakes on Saturday at Historic Track in Goshen.

The Rolands’ horse, Roland N Rock, is undefeated in 17 career races, with most of his victories coming on the Iowa fair circuit. It is an unlikely starting point for a Meadowlands Pace hopeful, but one the Rolands decided was worth following after watching the gelding dominate his competition to date.

“It’s very exciting,” said Duane Roland, a corn and soybean farmer from Grinnell, Iowa, who trains and usually drives Roland N Rock. “Whatever happens, this is like an experience no one that I know ever gets to do. Who gets to train their own horse and go to New Jersey and race in the Meadowlands Pace?

“Back home almost everybody sells their horse when it gets good. Most of the horses that are really good get sold between $50,000 and $75,000. My wife Connie and I are in the position that we don’t have to sell him. We figured, let’s just keep him and go have fun.”

Roland N Rock will face four rivals in Saturday’s $17,470 Landmark Stakes at Historic Track, which also is an unlikely place to find a Meadowlands Pace hopeful. The only other horse since 1992 to prep for the Meadowlands Pace eliminations by racing at Historic Track was Exporter, who in 2001 won a New York Sire Stakes division in Goshen six days prior to finishing ninth in his ‘Pace’ elim.

Since 1992, four Meadowlands Pace finalists competed at Historic Track the year prior to racing in the Pace, most notably 2000 Pace winner and Horse of the Year Gallo Blue Chip.

John Campbell is listed to drive Roland N Rock on Saturday at Historic Track. Post time is 1 p.m. for the first race on the card, which also includes three divisions of the Billings amateur drivers’ series. The Grand Circuit weekend at Historic Track concludes Sunday with Hall of Fame Day.

The Rolands decided to stake Roland N Rock to several of this year’s top races after the horse won the $86,000 American-National Stakes by two and a quarter lengths in 1:52.2 at Balmoral Park in October. The American-National was one of only two stakes engagements for Roland N Rock last year; the other was the $21,450 Review Stakes at Springfield, Ill., where the gelding romped by more than 13 lengths in 1:51.2.

“He’s never been tested in any of his races,” Roland said. “We thought we would test him last year when we went to Springfield and he just took off and won in (1):51.2. Then at Balmoral he was an easy winner, too. We decided this was our opportunity, so we took all the money from the American-National and staked him to a bunch of races. We figured we’d just go for it.”

This year, Roland N Rock is three-for-three, with his most recent victory coming in 1:55.4 at Wapello County Regional Fair in Eldon, Iowa on June 18. The time shattered the previous track record by two seconds and two-fifths of a second.

“It’s a car racing track, so the turns are banked pretty good,” Roland said. “We talked about it and thought he needed to go in 1:56 there for us to make the decision to come out here. And he did that. He still had more left, so that was good.

“I’m still trying to get him to peak. He just needs one more good workout and he should be ready to go. Almost everybody else was ready to race in May and was prepping for the North America Cup (in June). They’re going to have raced four to six weeks as hard as they can go leading up to this, so I’m thinking I have a fresh horse, at least that’s in my favour.”

Roland N Rock is a son of the mare Hanks Chip, who the Rolands purchased in foal to stallion Rocknroll Hanover for $6,000 at the 2011 Standardbred Horse Sale’s Mixed Sale, when Perretti Farms dispersed its broodmare band. The resulting foal was Roland N Rock.

And what did Duane Roland like about Hank’s Chip?

“The price,” he said with a laugh. “We’d gotten about $15,000 in breeders awards and I said let’s go spend that and try to buy two mares in foal to Rocknroll Hanover. We had $15,000 to spend. We bought two. This happened to be the good one.”

The Rolands soon will find out how good. In addition to the Meadowlands Pace, Roland N Rock’s stakes schedule includes the Carl Milstein Memorial, Battle of the Brandywine, Circle City, Jennas Beach Boy, Messenger, Matron, and Progress Pace.

“We’ve got to give it a shot,” said Roland, who has never raced a horse at the Meadowlands. “We paid him in to all these races, so we’re just like let’s go do it. If we’re eliminated (in the Meadowlands Pace eliminations) and we’re in the consolation, we’re still happy because we got to go.”

Roland said the emergence of his horse continues the feel-good storylines surrounding the top three-year-old pacers so far this season: Wakizashi Hanover ($23,000 yearling with three newcomers in ownership group), In The Arsenal ($7,500 buy back) and Wiggle It Jiggleit (privately purchased as a weanling).

“Now you’ve got this farmer from Iowa bringing this Rocknroll Hanover to the Meadowlands,” Roland said. “It’s all good for harness racing just to say that anybody can get the good horse. You’ve got four different stories there all going against the great horse Artspeak. So you never know how it’s going to turn out.

“We just hope that (Roland N Rock) does well, makes some money, and we have some fun.”


This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.


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