Gary Hennessy’s talented New Zealand four-year-old Ocean Park takes their next step towards the 2012 Cox Plate in Melbourne next month when they line up against some of the country’s best weight-for-age gallopers in this Saturday’s Underwood Stakes at Caulfield.
The Thorn Park stallion faces a tough second-up test in the $400,000 Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) this weekend where they will meet the likes of Peter Moody’s triple Group 1 hero Manighar ($2.30), last start Memsie Stakes victor Sincero ($5.50) and reigning Caulfield Cup champ Southern Speed ($7).
Ocean Park too is one of the single-figure fancies in the Underwood Stakes odds at bookmaker.com.au paying $8 to win their second thoroughbred major on the trot following their powerful first-up victory in the Group 1 Makfi Challenge Stakes (1400m) at Hastings on September 1.
Matamata-based Hennessy is now geared up for the stallion’s Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival debut rating Ocean Park, who ran second to Laser Hawk in the Rosehill Guineas back in March, a definite chance.
”He’s never run a bad race and I’m really happy with the way he’s come up,” Hennessy said.
It isn’t the Underwood however that Hennessy is most excited about, but the upcoming $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 27.
Ocean Park’s victory in the Challenge Stakes is the key indicator for Hennessy at this stage that they have a Cox Plate success in them with history pointing towards the race as a nice form guide for Australasia’s weight-for-age championship.
”Jimmy Choux couldn’t win that race (the Challenge Stakes) last year and went on to run second in the Cox Plate, and last year’s winner was (King) Mufhasa and we beat him easily in the race this year,” Hennessy said.
”Cox Plate winners like Surfers Paradise  and Sunline [1999 and 2000] won that same race first-up … so we think we’re on the right path.”
The Challenge Stakes also proved the form race for last year’s Underwood with the ill-fated Lion Tamer, who was sadly put down after breaking their leg in the Cox Plate 12 months ago, running fourth to King Mufhasa in the NZ Group 1 before their Underwood success.
Drawn in barrier five of 14 for the Underwood the boom youngster will reunite with their Rosehill Guineas’ hoop Glen Boss who is thrilled to get back aboard the in-form Ocean Park.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back on him as he’s got something a bit different about him,” Boss said.
While Hennessy is confident heading towards the Cox Plate with Ocean Park, who pays $14 in the latest Cox Plate odds at bookmaker.com.au, Boss will make his mind up after Saturday.
“He gives me that feel that he’s that sort of horse but he’s got to get out there and show it and so Saturday is a good chance for him,” Boss said.
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