Award caps Ocean Park’s season
Ocean Park’s fantastic season was capped with New Zealand racing’s highest honour when he was declared the 2013 Horse of the Year at the annual thoroughbred awards function in Hamilton last Thursday.
Since taking his fourth consecutive Group One race in the W S Cox Plate at Moonee Valley last October, the Gary Hennessy-trained superstar had been the frontrunner for ultimate Horse of the Year honours.
In the build-up to the final award announcement on Thursday night, Ocean Park also claimed the Middle-Distance category title, his owners Andrew Wong, Steve Yan and Gary Hennessy were awarded the Owner of the Year trophy and for good measure Ocean Park’s dame Sayyida was announced as Broodmare of the year and his breeders Trelawney Stud claimed the Breeder of the Year title.
That list of accolades for the horse who retired with eight wins – five of them at Group One level – and more than $3.6 million in stakeearnings was a final reminder of what a great racehorse Ocean Park was.
A 15-start career that began in Gisborne in November 2011 and ended in Dubai in March 2013 may have lasted no more than 18 months, but that was still sufficient time for the star of Kingston Lodge to establish himself as the best of the best in Australasia.
Gary Hennessy, who had selected the son of Thorn Park as a $150,000 Karaka yearling on behalf of his Hong Kong clients, was understandably thrilled to be joined by Andrew and Steve on the trophy rostrum at the Claudelands Events Centre last Thursday night.
‘‘To me and my family it means so much to be recognised like this,’’ he said, ‘‘ and to do it in partnership with Andrew and Steve is the ultimate.
‘‘They’re great guys who have backed me all the way and have been with me on a fantastic ride with a wonderful horse.’’
The pair of Hong Kong businessmen have enjoyed numerous wins in their own domain but nothing of the scale that Ocean Park has delivered.
That raises the interesting question of why their star performer was never given the opportunity to grace the Sha Tin turf, but as they would both attest in support of the programme planned by their trainer partner and given Ocean Park was a colt, greater value was seen in following that path.
The dream of proving himself in the northern hemisphere never came to fruition due to the injury he suffered at the Dubai World Cup meeting in March, but Ocean Park’s stud future had already been secured on the strength of his Australasian form.
In June plans were announced for Ocean Park to take up duties at New Zealand’s dominant thoroughbred nursery Waikato Stud at a fee of $30,000, backed by a selection of the country’s most successful breeders and including the trio who had raced them.
Gary Hennessy has bred horses for years and in fact stands his own stallion, former Hong Kong speedster Tiger Prawn at Kingston Lodge, but it will be a whole new ball game for his Hong Kong partners.
Having retained 10 per cent ownership of Ocean Park, they have invested heavily in a group of quality broodmares to mate with him, and thus begins another exciting chapter in what has already been a memorable story.
‘‘Through Ocean Park we have an opportunity we have never had the chance at before and are now so looking forward to his stallion career,’’ Andrew Wong said as he reflected on what lies ahead.
‘‘New Zealand has given us so much already with the horses we have raced from here and now for him to be a stallion at Waikato Stud, really you could not wish for a better home.’’
Ocean Park has a big act to follow in the steps of proven stallions to stand at the Tower Rd nursery, something that was brought home at the awards night when home-bred champion O’Reilly scooped the pool in the stallion categories.
In an unprecedented clean sweep, he claimed the Grosvenor Trophy for New Zealand progeny earnings, the Dewar Trophy for combined Australian and New Zealand earnings and the Centaine Award for global earnings.
Now about to embark on his sixteenth season at stud, O’Reilly and Group Oneproducing counterparts Pins, Savabeel, No Excuse Needed and Fast ’N’ Famous, along with the star newcomer and fellow Group One winner Rock ’N’ Pop, comprise a stallion line-up without peer in this part of the world.
Proud: Horse of the Year owners Steve Yan, Gary Hennessy and Andrew Wong pictured with newly appointed racing ambassador Kylie Bax at last week’s Thoroughbred Racing awards.