Oil on canvas, 22 1⁄2” x 27”
Signed, dated 1904
$15,000. – 20,000.
The Roquebrune Line
The elder Blackwell is best remembered for training Rock Sand to victory in the 1903 English Triple Crown. Rock Sand, owned and bred by James Miller, was out of the St. Simon mare Roquebrune, who won two races and was a half sister to the Epsom Oaks winner Seabreeze. Rock Sand was her first foal.
Rock Sand began his 2-year-old season winning the Bedford Stakes at Newmarket. He went on to triumph in the Woodcote Stakes, Coventry Stakes, Chesterfield Stakes, and Champagne Stakes. At the end of his 2-year-old year, Rock Sand was the 4-to-1 favorite for the following year’s Derby. This was especially impressive because most people considered the horse to be a terrible mover and too small to be a Derby winner.
His 3-year-old year was even more impressive. He started the year with a win in a relatively minor race that prepped him for his Triple Crown campaign. At the April Two Thousand Guineas, he was the 6-to-4 favorite. Ridden by the American jockey Skeets Martin, Rock Sand won the race by a length and a half, with Flotsam second and Rabelais third (respective grandson and son of St. Simon). It was reported in the Sportsman that Rock Sand “does not gallop until he is compelled to. In the Two Thousand Guineas, he had at one part of the race to be driven, but when he got going, he simply played with the field, winning very easily.” He went on to win the Derby at Epsom under a new jockey, Danny Maher, as the 4-to-6 favorite in front of a crowd, including the King, Queen, and the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Before competing in the St Leger, Rock Sand ran several other races. He handily won the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. In the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, he raced against older horses, notably Ard Patrick, the previous year’s Derby winner, and the filly Spectre, who had won four other British classic races in 1902. Together they were considered the best horses in England at the time, and the race, dubbed the “Battle of Giants,” drew an immense crowd that year. Rock Sand went off as the favorite, but the two more-experienced horses pulled away from the pack and fought neck and neck for the finish. Rock Sand finished third with Ard Patrick in first and Spectre second. Interestingly, all three horses were grandsons of St. Simon. On September 9, 1903, Rock Sand ran in the St Leger. Only four horses opposed him, and he was the 2-to-5 favorite. It was reported in the Star that he “was never really extended and won by four lengths.”
Rock Sand continued to race as a 4-year-old and won the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot (where he beat Spectre for the first time), the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket, and the £10,000 Jockey Club Stakes, which would be the last race of his career. Though he won his last race, he was said to be moving even more poorly than usual and was retired shortly thereafter due to persistent tendon trouble. He was sent to stud near Newmarket, but when his owner, James Miller, died in 1906, Rock Sand was put up for sale. His buyer was the American pillar of the turf August Belmont, who purchased the horse for £25,000 and shipped him to his Nursery Stud in Lexington.
As a sire, Rock Sand proved to be just as impressive as he was as a racehorse. He’s most remembered in the United States as the sire of Mahubah, the dam of Man o’ War (lot 34). He also sired Tracery who, like his father before him, won the St Leger. Tracery’s son, Papyrus, won the 1923 Epsom Derby and went on to sire Cosquilla, the dam of Princequillo (lot 35). Other progeny of note include Damrosch and Friar Rock, who won the 1916 Preakness and Belmont, respectively.