Updated on 09/16/2011 8:15AM

Premier miler proves no horse is an island


NEW YORK - Standing at one of the world's most strategic crossroads, the Rock of Gibraltar has been a silent witness to some of Europe's most historical events.

There it stood as Amerigo Vespucci sailed through the strait connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean at the beginning of a journey that would result in the naming of the New World as America. The Rock was there as Turks and Spaniards chased each other across the Mediterranean throughout the late Middle Ages. And it watched in dread peril as allied ships made their secretive way past it during World War II, stealthily pursued by German U-boats.

So solid is the rock that the Prudential Insurance Company uses it as a symbol of the soundness of its business.

Now the Rock of Gibraltar is back in the news again, and citizens of the island on which it sits have employed the Thoroughbred that bears its name in a political battle to remain separate from Spain.

One of Britain's last remaining colonies, Gibraltar has been the subject of discussions between the British and Spanish governments of late. The idea that London has proferred is to possibly turn the island over to Spain. A majority of the 30,000 Gibraltarians oppose such a move, and many of them have see the Aidan O'Brien-trained 3-year-old, the winner of seven consecutive Group 1 races, as a symbol to draw attention to their plight.

Rock of Gibraltar's victory in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp last Sunday was big news on Gibraltar. His overall success on the racetrack has provided the island with a great deal of free publicity around the world. That Rock of Gibraltar, the horse, is part-owned by Manchester United's manager, Alex Ferguson, only heightens the connection between the island and Britain.

Gibraltar has served as a tax-free haven for British bettors for years. The British racing papers are available to the islanders, who do not usually pay much attention to matters equine, but who take no little pride in the accomplishments of their namesake. The local residents routinely send it in on Rock of Gibraltar every time he runs. A one-pound stake in all seven of Rock of Gibraltar's Group 1 triumphs would have resulted in a profit of 13 pounds.

In November, Gibraltar will conduct a referendum to determine whether the island will remain under British rule. By that time Rock of Gibraltar's fame as a racehorse may include a victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile. A win at Arlington Park on Oct. 26 for the horse may translate into a moral victory for British sovereignty for the island.

Rock of Gibraltar was valued at 30 million pounds ($46.5 million) by British breeder David Redvers this week. By the astonishingly successful 16-year-old Danzig stallion Danehill, he is adept at what commercial breeders consider racing's sexiest distance, one mile.

His last five Group 1 tallies have come at that distance. Two of them, the 2000 Guineas and the Irish 2000 Guineas, were in classic races. The last two came in the Sussex Stakes and the Prix du Moulin against older horses. In between he won the St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, an event that is probably the world's single most important one-mile race for 3-year-olds. His ultimate goal before being led off the racing stage to stud is the Breeders' Cup Mile, but he may go first in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over the St. James's Palace course and distance on Sept. 28.

Rock of Gibraltar is possessed of instant acceleration and can go on any type of ground. At this point it appears that the only thing that might hinder him from landing in the B.C. Mile winner's circle would be a wide draw on Arlington's two-turn one-mile turf course. Gibraltar's British subjects are betting that he, and they themselves, will overcome all obstacles.