Brilliant Kiwi stallion Ocean Park (Thorn Park) overcame difficulties at a crucial stage to win Saturday’s $400,000 Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield.
Ocean Park arrived in Melbourne with the scalp of New Zealand Horse of the Year Mufhasa (Pentire) to his credit from his first-up run in the Group 1 Makfi Challenge Stakes (1400m) on September 1 but local punters had backed the Peter Moody-trained import Manighar (Linamix) heavily.
Top jockey Glen Boss had Ocean Park travelling perfectly on Manighar’s inside for the first 1200 metres of the Underwood Stakes before the pressure intensified at the 600 metres. Luke Nolen eased out to put Manighar into the race approaching the home turn but Boss was disappointed for a run when attempting to steer Ocean Park through a narrow opening between runners.
Boss had to pick Ocean Park back up again early in the straight. The son of Thorn Park hit top gear again with 150 metres to run, enabling him to run down the plucky leader Voila Ici (Daylami), who led until he began to tire inside the final 50 metres.
A determined Ocean Park and Glen Boss takes the lead from Voila Ici, picture quentinjlang.com
“He’s pretty special. He’s pretty special and has been a bit freakish all along,” Ocean Park’s trainer Gary Hennessy said of his dual Group 1 winner.
“He showed that in his last start and again today. He’s really special. He’s got a great turn of foot. It’s exciting to come over here and win a Group I.”
Ocean Park defeated Voila Ici by a half-length while December Draw (Medecis) finished another length away in third. The field ran the 1800 metres in 1:51.40 with the last 600 metres run in 34.85 seconds on a good (3) track. Ocean Park started at $8 on track while he returned a dividend of $6.30 on the Victorian TAB.
Ocean Park’s Underwood Stakes victory showed he would be competitive in either the Caulfield Cup or Cox Plate, depending on what path Hennessy decides for the winner of five of his nine starts.
Boss said Ocean Park was a natural athlete that would stand up to the rigours of a Cox Plate campaign over the next five weeks.
"He's a very athletic horse, he won't take much work," Boss said."What you see is what you get.
"He's got an electric turn of foot."
Ocean Park, picture quentinjlang.com
Hennessy paid $NZ150,000 for Ocean Park at the 2012 New Zealand Bloodstock Select Sale. The stallion has now won more than $500,000 for his owners A Wong, S Yan and Hennessy.