Award caps Ocean Park’s sea­son

Matamata Chronicle - - News - DENNIS RYAN Rac­ing colum­nist

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.

Photo: TR­ISH DUNELL

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.

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