“We were thinking that gambling expansion would pass in New Jersey,” said Joe Bellino, co-owner of the stallion. “I thought that more breeders in New Jersey would look to breed to him but that didn’t happen.”
Bellino’s belief was with so many stallions leaving the Garden State the arrival of a proven pacing stud would give New Jersey breeding operations a chance to stay in the state and breed to something of quality.
“That didn’t happen,” said Bellino. “Instead they must have sent their mares out of state.”
Rock N Roll Heaven’s future in New Jersey took a turn for the worse last September.
“I was watching the Jug and I heard Jeff (Gural) make a statement that they were stopping funding for support of the casino referendum. I was shocked,” said Bellino, who at the time still fostered hope that the measure would pass and his gamble to move the stallion New Jersey would ultimately pay off in a big way.
Bellino said that many breeding farms were interested in Rock N Roll Heaven for the 2017 season but he thought that Joe Thomson’s Winbak Farms would be the best location.
“I know Joe will commit mares to him,” said Bellino. “I was very happy with the job that Deo Volente did in New Jersey last year as well. We just didn’t get enough backing from others.”
A winner of over $2.7 million on the racetrack and the sport’s Horse of the Year in 2010, Rock N Roll Heaven began a productive second career at Blue Chip Farms in New York and would hit the ground running with top flight pacing fillies and some solid colts that were ultra-competitive in the New York sires program. His first crop produced three of the best fillies of that generation in Sassa Hanover ($1.1 million), Divine Caroline ($880K) and Band Of Angels ($484K). While there were a host of quality colts in the early crops, none has been the home-run quality generally necessary to boost the stallion’s career further.
“He’s had some outstanding fillies but just hasn’t had a colt yet,” said Bellino, not quite discouraged. “I’ve spoken to many horsemen and they tell me that if he can produce a great filly he can certainly produce a great colt.”
Rock N Roll Heaven returns to New York with a $5,500 stud fee that Bellino says is builtin with some added incentives.
Perhaps Rock N Roll Heaven’s best quality as a racehorse was his ability to get over all sized tracks. His epic two-heat performance in the 2010 Little Brown Jug was an effort Bellino won’t soon forget.
“That was an incredible afternoon,” said Bellino. “He won the first heat in 1:49 2/5 and came back and won the second in 1:49 2/5.” The miles still stand as the twoheat world mark today.
Bellino and his family are not beyond taking risks. That’s what propelled Rock N Roll Heaven to New Jersey and ultimately the failure of the gambling referendum has returned the stallion to New York. In 2009 they purchased Rock N Roll Heaven and another 2-year-old colt for a combined $300,000 purchase price. When they went with trainer Bruce Saunders to look at the two colts, the surprise was that the bigger and thought to be better looking colt of the pair was not Rock N Roll Heaven.
“The other colt was a big, beautiful horse. When we went to see Rock N Roll Heaven he was kind of small and standing in the back of the stall,” recalled Bellino.
Nevertheless, size proved no limitation on the racetrack and it has failed to hold down Rock N Roll Heaven as a stallion.
“It’s surprising. He’s thrown some big foals. Even when I bred some smaller size mares we got nice sized colts and fillies,” said Bellino.
At the core of racing it’s all about heart and Rock N Roll Heaven had plenty of that along with speed to match. He may be just one big colt away from getting full recognition as a stallion.