Dual Group 2 winner Ocean Emperor is vying to make it back-to-back wins in the Group 2 Gartshore Tauranga Stakes (1600m) on Saturday.
The Gary Hennessy-trained entire is back in winning form after victory over 1400m at Awapuni last-start and his connections are quietly confident heading into Saturday after that performance. “It was an excellent win (at Awapuni),” Hennessy said. “He showed an explosive turn of foot and was carrying topweight against some good horses.
“We’ve just had him ticking over. I used Awapuni last year as a stepping stone into this race and that was only a rating 82 and he did it in similar fashion, although it was over 1500m.
“This time he has gone into an open class race carrying more than weight-for-age, so it was a really good effort and he did it with ease.”
The seven-year-old son of Zabeel has drawn the ace barrier, but Hennessy isn’t particularly concerned about the draw in the eight horse field.
“I think there were only eight runners in it last year, I don’t think the barrier is going to play too much into it,” he said.
“If he gets a run in the straight we’ll see what he can do, he can really explode onto the scene. “There’s no Kawi or Miss Wilson in there, I think last year’s field was a lot stronger.
“We have prepared well and that is all you can do, so we just need some luck in the running and see how it pans out from there.”
Ocean Emperor is on a path for the Group 1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham next month where Hennessy hopes he can break through for his first victory at elite level.
“All going well, he’ll go down to the Captain Cook and that will be his main objective this year.”