Racing: Cox Plate prospects soar

By Mike Dillon

With two rivals failing at Caulfield, Ocean Park has firmed for Moonee Valley feature.

A jubilant Glen Boss returns to scale aboard Ocean Park after their success in the Caulfield Stakes on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images
A jubilant Glen Boss returns to scale aboard Ocean Park after their success in the Caulfield Stakes on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images

Gai Waterhouse became the Princess Of The Silver Lining yet again at Caulfield on Saturday, but it was Matamata's Gary Hennessy who slept better that night.

Waterhouse had to go to the bottom of her prodigious positivity pit to analyse the shock defeats of her two stars More Joyous and Pierro in the Toorak Hcp and Caulfield Guineas.

Punters around Australia - and New Zealand - were checking to ensure they had the phone number of their bank manager in their cellphones after the two Australian track heroes cast doubt about their A$3 million Cox Plate chances in their final lead-up races.

More Joyous finished unplaced behind former New Zealander Solzhenitsyn in the A$400,000 Toorak Handicap and stablemate Pierro, at $1.20 and named after a Margaret River chardonnay, came out of a slightly corked bottle to yield to All Too Hard.

Gai Waterhouse would have given those old Pommie WW1 generals a run for their money for spin when they sent home reports from the trenches of the Somme.

While Gary Hennessy, typically, received congratulations for Ocean Park's tradesman victory in the A$400,000 Caulfield Stakes with humility, Waterhouse composed her rearguard action.

"I can sum up today like this - it was frustrating, disappointing, but we live to race another day," Waterhouse said. "I'm disappointed Pierro and More Joyous didn't win, but I thought they both ran great races.

"Pierro had to do it tough and it was only in the last 50m that All Too Hard got to him. Pierro is a champion colt and All Too Hard showed today he is also an outstanding 3-year-old - that's the bottom line.

"More Joyous also had a very hard run. She had a lot of weight, 60kg, and that told against her in the end. They have both pulled up well and will run in the Cox Plate - why wouldn't they run?"

Ocean Park did only what was required to win the Caulfield Stakes, which was a deliberate ploy by Glen Boss, clearly unprepared to give the New Zealander a hard run before his Cox Plate grand final.

Ocean Park also appeared - like many before him - uncomfortable coming around the Caulfield home turn. Once rebalanced he knuckled down, but was restricted by Boss to do only what was necessary.

Pierro, at $1.85 for the Cox Plate before Saturday's race, is now at $3 and Ocean Park came in from $6 to $5.

You can make a strong case that Ocean Park should be favourite.

Pierro had been undefeated in eight starts going into the Guineas, but after being slow to begin, the super-colt was trapped four-wide going up the hill to the first turn.

Nash Rawiller, on Pierro, had been trapped in a similar position on More Joyous in the Toorak, and he was about to relive the nightmare.

Pierro still dashed clear into the straight, but the early exertion left the colt vulnerable to All Too Hard's late charge,

"I thought his run was massive," Rawiller said. "He was just a little slow out of the gates and raced a touch dour. It took him a while to get into his rhythm early.

"I still thought he was going to win at the top of the straight, but full credit to the winner - it took a good horse to run him down, I'll say that."

More Joyous was lumbered with a tough 60kg and Rawiller sprung to the mare's defence. "When the pace came off, I was forced to go around them and sit outside the lead."

"She can normally overcome things quite easily, but it was pretty testing out there with the big weight, especially when you're giving them 8kg.

"I was more than happy with the run. I was kind to her in the last 100 - I'm sure she can bounce back in the Cox Plate." Glen Boss says he wouldn't swap the Ocean Park ride for any other runner.

"I am not under-estimating the job I have ahead, but I would not swap him."

So You Think (2010), Northerly (2001) and Might And Power (1998) are among those who have won the Caulfield Stakes and Cox Plate in the same year and Boss is confident Ocean Park can join that elite trio.

"I think he is the right horse. He has weight-for-age form and he can switch on and switch off when you ask him. He is pretty good."

Ocean Park goes into the Cox Plate on Saturday week with a trio of successive group one victories, starting with the Makfi Challenge at Hastings and followed by the Underwood Stakes at Caulfield.

"He got interested in the race at the 600m, but he switched off when he hit the front," Boss said. "That is the race he really needed. He has put on weight since his last run and he needed a solid hitout."

New Zealand's Mufhasa finished fifth in the Toorak Handicap, which he won last year, after being shuffled back to fifth in the early running. He gave the impression he missed his usual on-speed position.

- NZ Herald

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