03/26/2007 12:00AM

Rockhill Native turning 30


Rockhill Native, 1979 juvenile champion, turns 30 on Wednesday, a prospect that prompted the gelding's caretakers at Sycamore Farm in Lexington, Ky., to hold a small birthday party on Monday in his honor.

Herb Stevens trained Rockhill Native to 10 wins from 17 starts, foremost among those the Grade 1 Blue Grass, Grade 1 Futurity, and Grade 1 Sapling stakes. He also placed in three other Grade 1 events, including the 1980 Belmont.

The event at the Lexington farm brought out jockey John Oldham as well as Bill and Jack Thomas, sons of Dr. Edwin Thomas, who bred Rockhill Native in partnership with Carolaine Farm.

"He got pretty aggressive later in his career and wanted to drag you up to the front," recalled Oldham, who rode Rockhill Native in all of his races. "But the first part of his career you could about put him where you wanted to. The more aggressive he got, you'd really have to wrestle with him to hold him down to a mild roar.

"Rocky was a champion that we bred and raised and sold as a yearling," said Bill Thomas, whose family stood Rockhill Native's sire, Our Native. Thomas was present when the mare Beanery foaled Rockhill Native in 1977.

"In the horse business, you don't do that very often," said Thomas. "He's always been one of our favorites."

Rockhill Native has been at Sycamore Farm for about a decade and is overseen by breeder Don Robinson, who owns nearby Winter Quarter Farm and leases Sycamore land for some of his mares.