Great Hastings win for Ocean Park
Wayne and Vanessa Hillis got the ball rolling with a perfect start to racing last Saturday and a Matamatatrained quinella in the first Group One feature of the Australasian season set the seal on a superb weekend of racing.
The indisputable star of the occasion was the Gary Hennessytrained Ocean Park, who proved just how talented he is with a stunning win in the $200,000 Makfi Challenge Stakes.
Support roles came from the Ken and Bev Kelso-trained Xanadu, who got to within half a length of Ocean Park, Karen Fursdon and Gemma Sliz, who gave Michelle Wenn her 500th career win, and the Hillis-trained pair that won the opening races at Saturday’s Hastings and Tauranga race meetings.
To begin at the beginning, Kate made it wins from her last two starts when she beat a smart field of three-year-olds at Hastings, adding further impetus to a proposed trip to Melbourne for the VRC Oaks in early November.
Wayne Hillis hardly had time to give the daughter of New Zealand Derby winner St Reims a congratulatory pat than stablemate Perfect Start had lived right up to her name with a lastto-first debut win at Tauranga. Perfect Start is a half-sister to current Hillis stable star Art Beat and another above average sibling in Smartly.
Back at Hastings the CrawfordSliz partnership produced Inanoff for the win that Michelle Wenn had been looking for since taking her career tally to 498 way back in June. A long, slow winter had produced any number of minor placings for the popular jockey but just one further win in the first week of August, so it was with huge relief and well measured satisfaction that Inanoff pulled out a winning effort on Saturday.
So to the main event. With four locally trained runners in the Makfi Challenge Stakes, Matamata stood a good chance of claiming a slice of the glory and the one-two result by Ocean Park and Xanadu was a great way to kick off the 2012-13 feature racing calendar.
Perhaps one of the most telling statistics is that Ocean Park was having just the eighth start of his career when he stormed through for Lisa Allpress to claim his fourth win, while runner-up Xanadu is likewise the ‘‘veteran’’ of just nine races.
Both new season four-year-olds have it all in front of them, with Ocean Park now headed to Australia for the Melbourne spring carnival and Xanadu a leading prospect to go one better in the second leg of the Hawke’s Triple Crown, the Windsor Park Plate on September 22.
Ocean Park is scheduled to have his first Melbourne start on the same day, with the Underwood Stakes at Caulfield the prelude to a possible start in Australasia’s most famous weightfor-age race, the A$3 million Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on October 27.
Saturday’s win went a long way to erasing the disappointment that Gary Hennessy and his Hong Kong co-owners Andrew Wong and Steve Yan experienced when Ocean Park ricked a joint on the eve of the Australian Derby in the autumn.
No doubt about it, the valuable colt is back better than before and ready to take on the best that Australian can offer.
Team Ocean Park: Gary and Jenny Hennessy, Japanese groom Yota Hori and son Shane pose with their Makfi Stakes winner Ocean Park at Hastings on Saturday.