Emperor hoping to take the Group 1 throne

Ocean Emperor is primed for Saturday’s Gr.1 Rydges Wellington Captain Cook Stakes (1600m). Photo credit: Race Images

Matamata horseman Gary Hennessy knows what it takes to win at the elite level and he has in-form galloper Ocean Emperor primed for Saturday’s Group 1 Rydges Wellington Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham.

Hennessy, who prepared Ocean Park to win five Group 1 races, is pleased with the progress of seven-year-old Zabeel entire Ocean Emperor, who enters Saturday’s contest on the back of a strong win in the Group 2 Tauranga Stakes (1600m) last month.

“He’s been ticking over nicely,” Hennessy said.

“He had a solid work-out on Tuesday morning in company with Roll The Gold, who is quite a good track worker. He had a good puff and that has cleaned him up nicely.”

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Rosie Myers will be re-united with Ocean Emperor, having ridden him to victory at Awapuni two-starts ago, before Lynsey Satherley proved a winning last-minute replacement for carded rider Dylan Turner when successful at Tauranga.

“Lynsey rode the horse to the letter and we were very thankful for her ride,” Hennessy said.

“Rosie is a high-class rider and in those big races you need everything in your favour that you can get.”

Trentham was rated a Heavy10 on Wednesday morning and Hennessy is hoping for improved track conditions.

“A heavy track could be the undoing of him,” he said.

“I’d rather see him on a good to a dead track. He has got a touch of brilliance on better ground, but on a slow track he can slog it out as well.”

Ocean Emperor has come up with a sticky draw in gate 11 in the 14-horse field.

“He doesn’t need to be a front-runner and a sitting duck like he was in the Tarzino,” Hennessy said.

“He has shown in all of his wins that when he has got cover, he has got something to offer when he is presented, and he just keeps on finding.”

The Group 1 mile is the main target for Ocean Emperor this preparation, with the Group 1 Haunui Farm WFA Group 1 Classic (1600m) on February 23rd a possible late-summer target.

“I won’t push him over Christmas and run in handicaps,” Hennessy said.

“He could probably go to Otaki and if he went well there and was impressive enough, you’d have to have a look at Australia.

“It would be nice to get a start in the All-Star Mile.”

The inaugural A$5 million All-Star Mile (1600m) at Flemington will be run on March 16. Ten of the 14 spots in the All-Star Mile (1600m) will be decided by the public through a vote, while there are also four wildcard spots for the race.

Ocean Emperor is no stranger to travel, finishing eighth in the Kranji Mile in Singapore earlier in the year, with Hennessy believing the experience has been the making of the horse.

“With the travelling he just grew up a lot and we’ve seen him in the parade ring the last few times and he has walked around on the lead like any other horse,” he said.

“For a son of Zabeel to train-on like he has, and being an entire, speaks volumes of his temperament, his attitude and his soundness.”

The well-bred entire has won nine of his 27 starts, but a Group 1 victory would ensure a bright future at stud.

“He’s an incredibly handsome horse and he is out of a Group 1 placed mare and is by a champion sire,” Hennessy said.

“He has got a Group 1 jockey on top and is trained by a Group 1 winning trainer, so it is up to him to complete the circle.”