Everything about Southern Ocean tells Riccarton trainer Terri Rae that he’ll relish 3200m but she says she’ll only really know when he gets to that distance on Saturday week.
Ocean Park five-year-old Southern Ocean has emerged as a potential staying star, winning five of his nine starts leading into Saturday’s Listed Nautical Boat Insurance Metropolitan Trophy Handicap (2500m) at Riccarton.
He showed he was hitting peak form at the right time with a brave last-start win in the Listed Spring Classic (2000m) at Riccarton despite being trapped three wide throughout.
Another bold performance on Saturday would have him right on track for Saturday week’s Group 3 Martin Collins New Zealand Cup (3200m).
“He’s bred to stay, being by Ocean Park. He’s got good stamina, he’s clean-winded and he’s 100 percent genuine,” Rae said.
“He was stuck out wide for most of the way last time but he just always sticks on. He’s got such a big stride that it looks a little bit like he’s going slow motion but the further he goes, the better, we think.
“He’s come through that last race really well. He galloped on the course proper on Tuesday and his work was super-good.
“He gets to race for good money on his home track and it should give us a good idea of what he’s capable of from here on. We want to get these next couple of races out of the way and see if he can stay or whether we have to shorten him up in distance.
“You never really know till you put them up over ground. That will tell us where he goes. The 2500m is one thing, but the 3200m is another. He’ll tell us.”
Bookmakers opened Southern Ocean as a +350 favourite for the Metropolitan ahead of Beaudz Well and last year’s New Zealand Cup runner-up Lincoln King at +400. Southern Ocean and Beaudz Well share +500 favouritism for the New Zealand Cup.
“On his work and from a good draw (barrier nine), he should go pretty close. They’ve put a good amount of water on the track so hopefully it’s got that good bit of cushion in it so he can pull up well and be good to go again the following Saturday.”
Southern Ocean finished second to subsequent Group 3 Wellington Cup (3200m) winner Waisake at Trentham in January at his only start outside the South Island; Rae again keen to head north for feature staying races if he can prove his worth in the Metropolitan and New Zealand Cup.
“He had that one trip to Trentham and he didn’t really cope that well but he has grown up since then,” she said.
“If he can perform well in these two, you would like to see him travel north and go up against different company again.”
Rae has a strong representation at Riccarton on the first day of Cup week, with Rockland, Astrakhan, Sacred Caga, Anduin, Harbourside, Arklow and Sacred Giant also in action.
“Anduin should be a good improver. We’ve been finding our way with him. He’s only joined us for this preparation so we’ve been working out how much he takes and he’s been doing a bit of swimming as well,” Rae said.
“Sacred Giant has a tricky draw but he should go a good race too. And all our others are going well and they should all go honest races as well.”
Astrakhan is one of the more interesting runners from the Rae team as she still holds a nomination in Saturday week’s Group 1 Barneswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m), though Rae suggests that a 1400m three-year-old race next Wednesday is a more likely target.