A long-range plan ended perfectly Oct. 27 when Ocean Park wore down All Too Hard in the closing stages and captured the $3 million Sportingbet W. S. Cox Plate (Aus-I), Australia’s premier weight-for-age race at Moonee Valley Racecourse.
The 4-year-old Thorn Park colt won by a neck under Glen Boss and was timed in 2:04.14 for the 1 1/4-mile (2,040-meter) turf contest while scoring a fourth consecutive group I triumph. He is the first New Zealand-trained Cox Plate winner since legendary mare Sunline in 2000 and the first New Zealand-trained male since Solvit 18 years ago in 1994.
All Too Hard, a half brother to superstar mare Black Caviar, burst to the lead about a furlong out. But Ocean Park, who was conceding 17 pounds to his 3-year-old opponent, reeled him in 50 meters out after breaking a step slow and racing near the back of the field early.
Ocean Park was an unlucky runner-up in the Flinders Lane Rosehill Guineas (Aus-I) in March to conclude last season prior to his string of top-level wins to begin this season: the Makfi Challenge Stakes (NZ-I) Sept. 1, Hyland Race Colours Underwood S. (Aus-I) Sept. 22, and Cathay Pacific Caulfield Stakes (Aus-I) Oct. 13 in is most recent start. The Rosehill Guineas defeat prompted trainer and co-owner Gary Hennessy to formulate a strategy to win the Cox Plate and the plan worked to perfection.
“This is great 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.”
Hennessy bought Ocean Park for $150,000 ($106,845 U.S.) from the consignment of breeder Trelawney Stud at the 2010 New Zealand select yearling sale. Convinced he had a colt of extraordinary ability, he convinced his Hong Kong-based partners to keep him in New Zealand.
Ocean Park provided Hennessy with his biggest career victory in the Cox Plate. Boss has won the race three times, including with So You Think in 2009 and Makybe Diva in 2005.
“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 penciled 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.”
Ocean Park, who is out of the Zabeel mare Sayyida, improved his record to seven wins and three seconds from 11 career starts. Sire Thorn Park, who is based at Windsor Park Stud in Cambridge, was New Zealand champion sire of 2011.
Among a trio of 3-year-olds entered, pre-race favorite Pierro finished third, four lengths behind All Too Hard, and Proisir, who was the early leader, tired to finish eighth in the 14-horse field. Six-year-old Green Moon had no rally and finished seventh as the favorite.
Elite mare More Joyous, who started 2012 with an impressive six-race win streak that included three consecutive group I wins, finished 11th after breaking from post 11. Racing wide, she was never in contention.