Ocean Park peaking for Dubai Duty Free

New Zealand’s international flag-bearer Ocean Park (NZ) has pleased trainer Gary Hennessy as he builds up to his biggest challenge in Saturday night’s G1 Dubai Duty Free (1800m) at Meydan.

“He came off the float looking great and, even though he lost a fair bit of weight, he was straight into the feed and drinking,” Hennessy said.  “Just his demeanour tells me he is feeling good.”

The five-time Group 1 winner enjoyed an easy canter on the Tapeta track earlier this week but not everything went to plan during a “breeze up” on Wednesday.  With work rider Kate Hercock in the saddle, Ocean Park took off from the 1600 metre chute but after about 200 metres ran into a soft spot caused by overnight watering.

Jenny Hennessy, who supervises Ocean Park’s track work with her husband Gary, said Hercock eased up on the four-year-old when he hit the soft spot.  “It was wetter than he likes and Kate didn’t want to take any chances,” she said. “He was still able to go over 600 metres, coming home the last 200 metres.

“Ocean Park is right where we want him and he doesn’t need any more.  He lost about 10kg on the flight to Dubai, which is nothing, and he’s put most of that back on.”

Gary Hennessy is confident the stallion will not let anyone down at Meydan.  “If he’s going to be the horse I think he can be, he needs to win in the Northern Hemisphere and a five million dollar race in Dubai is a great place to start,” Hennessy said.  “If things go to plan we’re looking at taking him to Royal Ascot later in the year.”

The big name rivals for Ocean Park on Saturday include USA star Little Mike, South African champion Igugu and her stablemates Mushreq and The Apache, French pair Giofra and French Fifteen and UK trained runners Wigmore Hall, I’m A Dreamer and Trade Storm.

Ocean Park (4h Thorn Park – Sayyida by Zabeel) was a $150,000 buy from Trelawney Stud at the 2010 NZB yearling sale and comes from the family of G1 winners Prince Kaapstad (Kaapstad) and Critic (Centaine).