Ocean Park trainer Gary Hennessy remains confident the Cox Plate winner can taste success on the global stage in Dubai next month despite a first-up failure in the Group 1 Hanui Farm Classic (1600m) at Otaki on Saturday.
The four-year-old was an odds-on favourite in a five-horse field but failed to show his typical turn of foot and finished two lengths behind winner Nashville in fourth position.
Rather than be disappointed, Hennessy took plenty of positives out of the performance and believes Ocean Park is still on track for the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free (1800m) on March 30.
“He may have been beaten but I’m thrilled with his run as he has finished just on two lengths from the winner in his first race for four months against genuine Group One horses who were all match fit,” Hennessy told New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing.
“It was a tough ask going over 1600 metres first-up but he has pulled up really well.
“His recovery was good with the only minor concern being the kick he took on his back hock in the birdcage as we were unsaddling.”
The lucrative stallion prospect will depart Auckland for Dubai on March 17.
Hennessy said the multiple Group 1 winner may have an exhibition gallop in the preceding days before he flies out but is confident everything is in place for the international expedition.
The son of Thorn Park was one of the stars of the Melbourne Spring Carnival, scoring a Group 1 treble in the Underwood Stakes, Caulfield Stakes and Cox Plate before running third in the Mackinnon Stakes.
A winner of seven of 13 starts and more than $2.5 million in prizemoney, other career highlights include winning the Group 1 Makfi Challenge Stakes in New Zealand and running second in the 2012 Rosehill Guineas.