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Four-year-old New Zealand import Oceanex has booked her spot in this year’s Lexus Melbourne Cup thanks to a gun run from jockey Mark Zahra in Saturday’s Listed Andrew Ramsden (2800m) at Flemington.
The mare by Ocean Park went around as a $6.50 chance in the markets at Ladbrokes.com.au, beating home the heavily backed King Of Leogrance ($1.85) in one of the upsets of the day.
Zahra, who hopped on board for the first time in place of Tom Marquand, made full use of the inside draw to establish a spot just off the speed behind Warrnambool Cup winner Too Close The Sun.
The race looked close to over down the straight with the favourite leading at the 300m mark, but Zahra did a great job staying patient before looming up at the clock tower to grab the lead.
Oceanex was a query beyond 2000m earlier in her career but has since developed into a much-improved stayer.
Even though Saturday’s market showed little respect, the mare came in with two wins at Flemington to her name, as well as a last start win at Morphettville over the 2500m in the Listed Port Adelaide Cup.
“Her first 2500m in Adelaide was strong, and today was fantastic,” Price told racing.com.
“I know she drew barrier 1 and got the gun ride with a great pair of hands in Zahra, but still, she beat the right horse in the race and she won convincingly going away. She loves Flemington and y’know, win it you’re in it… there’ll be a bit of nerves now.”
Oceanex will go down as Price’s third runner to lineup in a Melbourne Cup, with his previous two going around at very long odds. Ladbrokes has listed the four-year-old as a $34.00 chance in their market with Master Of Wine and last week’s South Australian Derby winner, Russian Camelot, sharing the favouritism.
As for Oceanex’s leader into that famous Tuesday in November, he’s more than comfortable to play it by year.
“I’ve got no idea, I’ll have to think about it now, the pressure is on,” Price joked.
“Put a circle around the Melbourne Cup and start training her. We just roll on with, use your judgement every morning like you do. She’s doing the job herself, she hasn’t had a grinding stayers’ prep or anything. The trip to Adelaide was nice, but I think she’s got a beautiful big clean set of lungs and she stays”
Beaten odds-on favourite King Of Leogrance held on for second and remains a $19.00 chance for the 2020 Melbourne Cup.
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