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RETURN OF THE NATIVE
William Nack
May 05, 1980
`A champion at two who had taken his lumps at three, Rockhill Native won the Blue Grass to revive his Kentucky Derby prospects—and set off a down-home hoedown
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May 05, 1980

Return Of The Native

`A champion at two who had taken his lumps at three, Rockhill Native won the Blue Grass to revive his Kentucky Derby prospects—and set off a down-home hoedown

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He let him do it all down the backside. The colt bounced along on top, and Oldham let him be. Gold Stage tried him but Rocky didn't let him get close, and around the turn and through the lane the race was his. Oldham worked on him in the stretch, tapping him three times to keep him busy. "I tried to get him to go all out," he says. "For the Derby, I didn't want it to be too easy for him today and have him come up short there. I did want him to get tired today." He won by two lengths in 1:50 for the nine furlongs, looking decidedly the best.

Oldham returned the horse to the winner's circle and the sweet confusion, to the cheering of the hometown crowd for the hometown man. "This is the biggest day I've had in racing," Stevens said at least a dozen times, adding reflectively, "I grew up with horses. I love horses. I love to develop young horses. You take the raw material and see how far you can go with them. It's like with Rockhill Native. You start out with something, but you don't have any idea if he has any value at all, except what you paid for him when you bought him. And then to develop him into a champion—well, you just know that you've accomplished something in life."

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