Matamata trainer Gary Hennessy says Cox Plate hero Ocean Park (NZ) is as forward as he can be without the benefit of an official trial in preparation for the G1 Haunui Farm Classic at Otaki on Saturday.
Hennessy concedes that he doesn’t know whether that will be good enough for Ocean Park against a small but star-studded line up but he knows the horse will derive great improvement from the run.
“It’s a big ask to line up in a Group 1 first up over 1600 metres and if ever he’s going to be vulnerable then this is it,” Hennessy said. “But I’m very happy with where he is at, and obviously he is a horse with a fair bit of class.”
Ocean Park was the star of the Australasian spring, progressing from 1400 metres to 2040 metres as he landed four successive Group 1 victories in the Makfi Challenge, Underwood Stakes, Caulfield Stakes and W S Cox Plate.
Hennessy says Ocean Park has come back as good as ever and he has given the horse three exhibition gallops at northern race meetings in the past month to prepare him for his return. “He’s a clean-winded horse and has had only one decent gallop on the track since,” Hennessy said. “Whatever he does on Saturday I know he will improve on but he has won every time that he’s been fresh up in the past.”
Safely through Saturday’s race, Ocean Park will be on a flight to Dubai on March 17 and will contest the G1 Dubai Duty Free (1800m) on March 30. “I know he is better second up so that is why he will be having only the one run here before he goes to Dubai,” Hennessy added.
Among his Haunui Farm Classic rivals are in-form mare Final Touch (Kashani) and last year’s winner Veyron (Thorn Park).
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). His dam Sayyida has a Pins colt nominated for the 2013 Inglis Easter yearling sale.