01/11/2017 1:08AM

Bergman: Pet Rock freshman ready to roll for 2017

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Derick Giwner
Pet Rock posted the fastest mile ever on a half-mile track (1:48 1/5) at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.

While the calendar is but a few days into 2017, it’s not too early to begin to dream of the coming freshman class. No stallions have more at stake than those that will debut this year with first crops destined for greatness or doomed to mediocrity. This year marks the debut from a few members of the sophomore class of 2012, a memorable year with multiple horses battling in many of the classics of this century. Pet Rock emerged from that class and went on to further his stature as an aged pacer. In 2017 his first book will hit the track, with the son of Rocknroll Hanover looking to make his mark first in Ohio but more likely throughout North America.

Virgil Morgan Jr. was the guiding force behind Pet Rock during his racing career and he is out front early in search of the next champion.

“I’m training 12 by Pet Rock,” Morgan said. “I’ve got 6 fillies and 6 colts and I have only good things to say about all of them.”

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Morgan accepted the obvious bias thrust upon him, but at the same time is feeling confident at this point.

“They all have a lot of the same attributes that he had,” Morgan said. “They have good attitudes, good conformation and physically look a lot like him.”

Morgan knows there is a long distance between January and June but he appears confident in what he’s got right now. The trainer has but 15 2-year-olds in training with a full 80 percent by Pet Rock.

Pet Rock has been standing at Midland Acres for three seasons and has been extremely well received in the Buckeye State. Perhaps much of that has to do with the epic performances those in Ohio got to witness first hand.

“He paced in 1:48 1/5 over the half-mile at Delaware,” said Morgan. “He won the Ewart in 1:47 2/5 over the five-eighths at Scioto and took a 1:47 mark on the mile track.”

There was never much doubt how fast a horse Pet Rock was, but wise horsemen know there’s a huge difference between a fast horse and a great horse, and Morgan recognized what separated his horse from those others.

“He had a great mouth. You could leave out of there in 25 seconds and get him to relax afterwards. A lot of horses when you start them up like that you never get them to calm down. You could just see how he carried himself on the racetrack,” Morgan said.

As a son of the late Rocknroll Hanover, Pet Rock will try to continue a line that at this point is looking for a new beginning. Out of an Artsplace-sired mare, there’s plenty to like in the rich pedigree that supports his bottom line and that leaves ample reason for optimism in Ohio and throughout North America that a successor to Rocknroll Hanover could be found.

On the racetrack, Pet Rock showed high speed during an abbreviated five-race juvenile campaign in 2011. He hit the board in 20 of 22 starts as a 3-year-old against a stellar crop of colts that included A Rocknroll Dance, Sweet Lou, Thinking Out Loud, Bolt The Duer, Heston Blue Chip, Michaels Power, Warrawee Needy, and State Treasurer. As a 4-year-old he didn’t win nearly as often, but his nose was on the wire against the aforementioned class while losing a couple of close decisions to Foiled Again, at the time already a seasoned superstar.

With near $2 million in career earnings, Pet Rock had a distinguished career on the racetrack and will now get a full opportunity to continue his legacy as a stallion. With a stud fee at $6,000 and a first crop looking and acting the part, Pet Rock’s popularity could grow, as could the fee to breed to him over time.

Pet Rock’s biggest fan may in fact be Morgan. “I’m putting my money where my mouth is,” said Morgan in regard to his support for the stallion and the direction he feels sons and daughters of Pet Rock will take him in the not too distant future.