Ocean Park for Dubai Duty Free Thu, 01 Nov 2012
Having proven himself as the middle-distance weight-for-age champion of the Victorian spring carnival, Ocean Park will now be aimed at the Dubai Duty Free at the Dubai World Cup meeting in March.
Trainer and part-owner Gary Hennessy today announced the plan to bring the Cox Plate winner home for a well earned spell before setting him for the US$5 million race at Dubai’s Meydan racecourse on March 30.
Hennessy still has one piece of business remaining in Melbourne, with Ocean Park set to back up from last Saturday’s Moonee Valley win and line up as the sub-$1.50 favourite in the Longines Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.
“I’m actually a little bit on the nervous side, something I’ve not experienced over here until now,” the Matamata trainer admitted tonight. “One of the good things about the experts not rating him for the three races he’s already run in is that you haven’t got any pressure on you.
“They’re slow learners over here but they’ve finally worked it out and now they won’t have him beaten. I won’t either but that’s different, every race he’s had in Melbourne I’ve been confident.
“He’s done us all proud and it would be great to finish the carnival off with a perfect record.”
Hennessy first gave consideration to Dubai when former champion international jockey Brent Thomson floated the idea following Ocean Park’s first-up Melbourne win in the Underwood Stakes.
“Brent said he looked the ideal horse for a race like the Duty Free. It’s 1800 metres and he’s got that turn of foot that he showed in the Makfi (1400m) and can sustain beyond a mile.
“I’ve talked it over with my partners and they’re keen too. There’s been some talk that a race like the Hong Kong Derby would be his for the taking but in fairness to his stallion future, giving him exposure to the northern hemisphere at the Dubai World Cup has a lot more value.”
The Dubai Duty Free has been a regular target for horses from this part of the world. Champion mare Sunline contested it in 2001, having won the Hong Kong Mile three months earlier, but after being softened up in the lead had to concede to well proven internationals Jim and Tonic and Fairy King Prawn.
Another multiple New Zealand Horse of the Year, Seachange, stopped in Dubai on her way to Europe in 2008, finishing sixth in the Duty Free, which lists amongst its winner the former classy Victorian galloper Elvstroem.
Hennessy continues to entertain none of the approaches he has received with regard to Ocean Park’s life beyond the racetrack. “We’ve had all sorts of stud proposals put to us but for now we’re just enjoying the ride of our lives and that can all come later,” he said. “He’ll be on the first flight home on Thursday and then have a month off before we get him ready for Dubai.
“That will probably mean missing the Sydney autumn carnival but we’re keen to get him back to Melbourne next spring and hopefully do it all again.”