Blenheim-based breeder Jonny Orr is feeling pretty excited about his potential New Zealand Cup candidate Southern Ocean (Ocean Park-Viana) after his win in the Listed Spring Classic (2000m).
However, Orr is the first to admit that he hasn’t always been a fan of the five-year-old chestnut.
“It’s been a pretty cool ride so far from a horse that we didn’t think that much of,” he said.
“I never really warmed to him as a foal, I’ve breed a few and he wouldn’t be the best looking I’ve bred but from a foal he improved microscopically every day.
“He was a pretty small foal, not spectacular, he was a backward yearling, it was a tough year for Ocean Park and in the end, we ended up keeping him.”
Southern Ocean was then sent to Riversley Park to begin his early education under the care of Sam Beatson, who Orr knew from his days in Dannevirke.
“Sam took him home with idea of breaking him in and getting him up as a two-year-old and to trade him through his Riversley Park,” Orr said.
“Sam was my neighbour when I farmed in Dannevirke and he took the horse along slowly and he seemed to improve every time you did something with him. Then COVID happened last year and we couldn’t get him to the races.
“In the end we arranged to send him to Terri Rae, that way I would get to see him, and we could trial and race him in the South Island still with a view to selling him.
“At his first trial he won running 1000m in under a minute and from there he has just gone from strength to strength and Sam and I ended up racing him.”
That trial was as an autumn three-year-old, another trial win followed shortly after before he was spelled again. Towards the end of his three-year-old season Southern Ocean ran second in another trial and didn’t reappear until September.
At his first race day start as a four-year-old he ran second over 1400m and a month later broke his maiden at Ashburton over a mile.
Southern Ocean clocked up two more wins at that distance at his next two starts before being taken north to Trentham to take on the open handicappers over 2200m where he ran a creditable second to subsequent Wellington Cup winner Waisake.
He then concluded his four-year-old season with a win over 1800m. As a five-year-old he has ran fresh up at Riccarton and missed before running second over 2000m at the same track, also the venue and distance of his impressive Spring Classic win at his third start for the season.
“Now he has had nine starts for five wins and three placings and to be fair he was a little underdone when he ran down the track two starts back,” Orr said.
“Hopefully things pan out for him this campaign, he holds a nomination for the New Zealand Cup. It’s pretty cool ride so far from a horse that we didn’t think that much of I wouldn’t have thought we would have been where we are now with him two years ago.
“After the first three wins I roped in a few mates from North Canterbury for a small share each to share in the fun, they include Don and Kate Anderson Fiona Bush, Phillipa Harris, Dave and Jo Holland. Most of them had been great friends from when I farmed in Cheviot, I had talked them into a horse before which I could run faster than in my gumboots so I felt I owed to them to get them in a good one.
“They were all stoked after winning the Spring Classic, it’s good to share the experience with good friends. They are all great people and really cool to have fun with and they know how to celebrate.”
Sothern Ocean’s dam Viana (Volksraad) won five races including the 2013 edition of the Spring Classic. She is a half-sister to C’Mon Cuba (Thorn Park [AUS]), a winner of three races and was Group Two placed, and she in turn has left the stakes placed winner Ole Ole (Makfi [GB]).
They are out of the placed Danzero (AUS) mare Hecuba, who is a daughter of the stakes winning Sir Tristram (IRE) mare Melora. She won four races including the Gr.2 Hollindale Cup, and was Group One placed in the Queensland Derby, Queensland Oaks, and International Stakes, as well as a host of other group races. She is a three-quarter sister to Piper Star (Kaapstad) a winner of six races including the Gr.2 T S Carylon Cup and Gr.3 Matriarch Stakes. They in turn are out of the stakes placed winning mare Te Akau Star (AUS) (Shining Finish [GB]), herself a sister to the multiple group winner Shinkama.
Viana is due to foal to Nicconi (AUS) and will visit Windsor Park’s new stallion Circus Maximus (IRE) this season.
“It was a great thrill to win the same race as his mother Viana,” Orr said. “He has done her proud. She has done a great job as a broodmare. With only three to the races she has had three winners and I have a lovely Pins filly called Esme in work with Jonno Benner which we rate as well.”
Orr has been breeding for about 25 years and his broodmare band currently sits at three. He grew up in Cambridge and as the nephew of Lesley and Jim Otway, spent a bit of time at Trelawney Stud and always followed and pottered around with horses. He doesn’t follow a strict breeding philosophy but is a fan of good racing families.
“Normally I would go to a new sire in his first year or third year,” Orr said, “But in this case (with Southern Ocean) I went to Ocean Park in his second year.
“I liked the Sir Tristram double up through both females Sayyida through Zabeel and Melora the grandam of Viana, and that is maybe where he gets his staying ability.
“Besides I loved the horse himself for what he did on the race track, and I loved Thorn Park and I knew the cross should work as Viana’s half-sister is C’Mon Cuba.”
The love of Thorn Park is also reflected in his most recent broodmare purchase Magic Briar (Thorn Park [AUS]- Alberton Magic), a stakes winner of five races from the Alberton family which features a host of stakes winners. She has produced a filly to Darci Brahma this season and will return to that stallion.
“I bought Magic Briar off Cherry and Brent Taylor and sent her to Darci Brahma,” Orr said. “I’m now also breeding from another mare I bought online from Australia called Membership (AUS) (All American [AUS]-Lodore Falls [AUS]) who has a filly by Impending (AUS) and is going to Tivaci (AUS).
“She also has a Manhattan Rain (AUS) filly who is two and will head to Terri Rae’s stable. She is a granddaughter of a mare I really loved - Lodore Magic (Kingdom Bay-Morgan Page).”
But for now, he is revelling in the excitement and success of Southern Ocean and looking forward to next month’s New Zealand Cup.
“I’m pretty rapt with him given his pretty unlikely beginning,” he said with obvious pride. “You never know what is going to happen in racing, every time he steps out he goes up a grade and it will be interesting to see where he goes in this campaign.” – Michelle Saba, NZTBA