Cox Plate 2012: Ocean Park emerges as a superstar
Ocean Park wins the Cox Plate for 2012, beating All Too Hard at the Moonee Valley racecourse in Melbourne, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
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As a packed Moonee Valley waited for Ocean Park and Glen Boss to return to scale after the 2012 Cox Plate, an on-course announcer told the crowd the result was a good one for Australian racing.
“This is a great outcome for racing. A four-year old (Ocean Park) has beaten a pair of three-year olds (All Too Hard and Pierro) and another four-year old has finished fourth (Ethiopia),” he said.
I thought this was an interesting idea. Could the 2012 championship be the beginning of a new, exciting era in racing?
Time will tell if the heroes of the 2012 Cox Plate propel the sport forward in the coming months. It is just one of many talking points to emerge from a great weight-for-age championship.
In a post-race wash-up that has focused so much on the sub plots (like John Singleton’s tiff with Gai Waterhouse), the performances of winner Ocean Park and runner-up All Too Hard shouldn’t be lost.
I remember the sire of Ocean Park well. His name is Thorn Park and he made his debut at Rosehill in June 2002. For whatever reason, it has stayed with me.
When I went to the races that day, I’m not sure what I expected to see but I didn’t think I’d be writing about it ten years later.
Thorn Park’s trainer, Bob Thomsen, went on Sydney radio that morning gave a confidence-inspiring interview. He spoke about an exciting horse with exceptional ability.
Of course Thorn Park won. He only beat a field of 11 two-year olds but he did it with a sensational turn of foot. So good was his performance that I followed Thorn Park for the remainder of his 22-start career.
And wasn’t my patience tested. Thorn Park raced in six Group Ones and each time he was expected to figure. Yet the only time he did was in his final start, when he won Queensland’s most coveted prize, the Stradbroke Handicap in 2004.
Thorn Park went to stud where he passed on his only asset, a brilliant acceleration, to his most talented son, Ocean Park.
And on Saturday, Ocean Park used that change of gear to win a Cox Plate.
Most championships are won and lost on the side of the Moonee Valley track. It’s where the winning runs are made; the contenders come into the race and those that don’t figure struggle for either galloping room or to keep up.
And it was no different in the 2012 renewal. At the 600m Boss had Ocean Park positioned in midfield on the back of struggling favourite Green Moon.
When Ocean Park moved to the outside, he produced a sharp sprint that won him the race. In the space of 200m, the New Zealander made up three lengths on the leading division.
And as the field turned for home, Ocean Park – racing high on the camber – had all the momentum necessary to claim the Cox Plate.
But it wasn’t over yet. All Too Hard, the Caulfield Guineas winner, had enjoyed an equally soft run in transit and had plenty to offer.
The Cox Plate developed into an arm wrestle. Ocean Park used his father’s speed to get to within striking distance of All Too Hard. But, with 8kgs more to carry than his three-year old rival, he needed to find another level to win.
And hidden deep within, along with a strong will to not be beaten, was Zabeel blood. Zabeel is Ocean Park’s damsire.
And the most influential staying bloodline in Australasian racing came to the fore late. Perhaps this was the difference in the end.
Ocean Park, who for so long down the short Moonee Valley straight couldn’t pass All Too Hard, won the race in the final few bounds. Maybe it was because All Too Hard had no staying pedigree to call on.
The half-brother to Black Caviar has hardly any 2000m form in his immediate family. He is of sprinting stock. And in a Cox Plate that developed into a war of attrition All Too Hard came up short in the final few bounds.
But his run should not be underestimated. All Too Hard may not be as good as big sis but he’s a seriously-talented horse.
Ocean Park’s performance is almost the quintessential Cox Plate victory, comprising of the speed to contend, the stamina to fight and the desire to win.
All three attributes come from within. A great Cox Plate isn’t won by fluke and rarely by great ride. They are won by superstar horses.
After the race, Ocean Park received a rousing reception when he paraded in front of Moonee Valley’s overhanging grandstands. The elation was expressed by Boss, who jubilantly held his left arm in the air.
The doubters had been silenced. The horse with the perfect form for the Cox Plate – three Group One weight-for-age victories in his only three starts as a four-year old – won the Cox Plate.
And as a stallion that has improved so much in just six months, Ocean Park is beginning to forge a very special career.
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