Racing: Ocean Park prepares for international campaign

By Mike Hedge

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Cox Plate winner Ocean Park will step up the pace of a preparation that could make him one of New Zealand's best international performers ever.

Trainer and part-owner Gary Hennessy has had Ocean Park back in his stable for the past month and plans to give him his first serious gallop today.

"At this stage we're looking at a run at Otaki on February 23, then to Dubai and then Ireland," Hennessy said.

The Otaki race is the group one Haunui Farm WFA Classic over 1600m. Ocean Park's connections will then take up an invitation to run in the Dubai Duty Free (1700m) at the World Cup meeting on March 30.

Hennessy says the plan is to continue what is likely to be the horse's final campaign in the Queen Anne Stakes (1600m), a race won by the Australian galloper Haradasun in 2008, at Royal Ascot in June.

Ocean Park would then remain in Europe and run in the group one Irish Champion Stakes (2000m), won by So You Think in 2011, at Leopardstown in September.

For Hennessy the immediate task is to work off much of the weight Ocean Park put on during his spell and still have him in the right shape to undertake his programme.

"He put on about 25kg while he was out ... he's thickened out, he looks even stronger," he said.

Ocean Park is likely to be ridden in his European races by Irish jockey Johnny Murtagh, who also handled Haradasun in his Royal Ascot win.

Murtagh also rode Australian Starspangledbanner when he won the 2011 July Cup at Newmarket and was aboard Choisir for his famous Royal Ascot sprint double in 2003.

Murtagh broke a collarbone in a skiing accident in Austria this week, but is expected to be fit to ride Ocean Park in Dubai. AAP

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