Ocean Park thrust New Zealand back into the Sportingbet Cox Plate spotlight with a historic win in the $3 million Group 1 event today at Moonee Valley.
The four-year-old became the first Kiwi to win Australasia’s weight-for-age championship since Sunline (2000) and the first New Zealand-trained male since Solvit 18 years ago when he provided Gary Hennessy with his biggest win as a trainer and jockey Glen Boss with his third success in the race.
Hennessy said the victory was the culmination of a plan hatched after Ocean Park finished an unlucky second in the Rosehill Guineas and he was thrilled to fly the Kiwi flag.
“This isgreat and I’m really pleased for all of New Zealand,” Hennessy said.
“We set a plan way back in the autumn and today he was huge.
“It’s a huge thrill for (owners) Andrew (Wong) and Steve (Yan) to be here today and we’ve got ourselves a really lovely horse and today he has proved that he is the best weight-for-age horse in Australasia.”
Ocean Park became the first horse since the Group 1 system was formalised in 1979 to complete four straight Group 1 wins with victory in the Cox Plate when he maintained an unbeaten spring after wins in the Makfi Challenge, Underwood Stakes and Caulfield Stakes.
He became the sixth horse to complete the Underwood Stakes-Caulfield Stakes-Cox Plate treble that had previously been achieved by only Ajax, Bonecrusher, Almaarad, Northerly and So You Think.
Boss, 43, who partnered Makybe Diva to a hat-trick of Melbourne Cup wins, said the victory was up there with anything he has achieved in racing.
“It feels like my greatest achievement in this sport so far,” Boss said. “I know I’ve done some wonderful things, but I’ve been in this colt’s corner the whole time and there have been doubters but I kept saying he is a winner.
“I pencilled this horse in after the Rosehill Guineas and said this horse is a star. I kept telling people that when this horse comes back next preparation you must watch him because he is a serious racehorse.”
Boss, whose earlier Cox Plate wins came aboard Makyba Diva (2005) and So You Think (2009), produced a confident ride to get Ocean Park home to the seventh of his 11-start career.
He snagged the $6 chance back from barrier nine and settled just worse than midfield one off the fence, where he stayed until getting onto the back of Green Moon at the 800m.
The $5 favourite started to battle not long after, prompting Boss to peel four-wide at the 600m. He quickly improved rounding the home bend to set out after three-year-olds Proisir and All Too Hard, who had their rivals struggling.
Black Caviar’s younger half-brother gave backers a sight when he dashed clear at the 200m, but Boss and Ocean Park reeled him in inside the final 50m and edged away for a neck victory over All Too Hard ($9), who became the first Guineas winner to place in the Cox Plate since 1985.
“I got on the back of Green Moon but he looked like he wasn’t going to take me anywhere so I got outside him and ripped past him and once he saw the bunny when he straightened up he just let go,” Boss said.
Pierro ($5.50), who was striving to become the first Golden Slipper to win the Cox Plate, enjoyed a good run and was under pressure at the 600m but came again late to edge out Ethiopia ($18) for third placing.
Southern Speed was the eye-catching run of the unbeaten brigade, storming into sixth, one spot ahead of Green Moon, who endured a wide run but was beaten a long way from home.
Hennessy said Ocean Park is likely to be given his shot at making it five Group 1 wins in a row in next Saturday’s $1 million Longines Mackinnon Stakes (2000m).
Story by Brad Bishop