June 12, 2024

Ocean Road bursts onto scene in last-to-first Gamely

Ocean Road and jockey Umberto Rispoli win the Gamely at Santa Anita (Photo © Benoit Photo)

Well regarded but lightly raced European import Ocean Road delivered a breakout performance in Monday’s $400,500 Gamely (G1) at Santa Anita. Sweeping from last to first for Umberto Rispoli, the Brendan Walsh trainee announced her presence on the turf distaff scene.

Qatar Racing’s Ocean Road had been spotted in Southern California once before, in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Del Mar. Then an English shipper from the yard of Hugo Palmer, she rallied from well back to finish a belated sixth. Ocean Road returned in an April 15 Keeneland allowance, her debut for Walsh, and she flew from last to get up despite a crawling pace.

That earned her another trip west for the Gamely, and Ocean Road put it all together. Anchored about five lengths behind pacesetter Canoodling through splits of :23.49 and :47.81 on the firm turf, Ocean Road was still last, but creeping closer, passing six furlongs in 1:11.65.

The stalking Going to Vegas was the first to pounce on the leader turning for home. Going Global, the 4-5 favorite, had been strung up among horses, until a gap opened and she advanced. Instead of her usual blitz, however, Going Global couldn’t quite get to Going to Vegas.

By midstretch, Ocean Road was striking top gear out wide. Surging past Going Global and Going to Vegas, the 5.10-1 chance was along in time by a half-length. Ocean Road negotiated 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.66 and paid $12.10 for her first stakes victory.

Going to Vegas drew one length clear of a flat Going Global, with Canoodling the same margin back in fourth. Next came Eddie’s New Dream and Thrumps Dream. Neige Blanche and England’s Rose were withdrawn.

A half-sister to globetrotting star and $2 million-earner Wigmore Hall, Ocean Road is the second Grade 1 winner produced by the Theatrical mare Love and Laughter. Both are by Sadler’s Wells-line sires. Wigmore Hall was a son of High Chaparral, and Ocean Road is by blueblood champion Australia, whose parents are Epsom royalty Galileo and Ouija Board.

In his postrace comments, Rispoli thanked Qatar’s Sheikh Fahad for his longtime support, and cited Ocean Road’s Keeneland win as the reason why he was so eager to pick up the mount:

“I knew what she did at Keeneland last time was not normal. If you watch the race, we went very slow, the first half-mile of the race we went in :50 (:50.48) and she turned home for last. I was in that race, and I was outside of the leader so, I was surprised when this filly came by me, I said, ‘Wow, what is this?’

“And a couple of weeks later Brendan offered me the ride in the Gamely and I said yes, I would take it. I didn’t even know who was going to ride but what she did at Keeneland, I was very pleased with that. I knew I had a lot of horse underneath me.”

Walsh also revisited her Keeneland effort and rightly sounded an optimistic note about her future:

“She was very impressive in her first start at Keeneland. We thought she’d need a run and with this race at a mile and one eighth, we thought it would be a good spot to take a shot. She has been doing really well since she ran, and she’s been training really well. Her works have been better and she’s just grown in confidence. 

“The guys that came out with her here to Santa Anita have been telling me all week how good she’s been doing, that she’s just blossomed out here. Today, she had a bit of swagger about her. I knew she was going to run a good race, whether it was going to be good enough or not remained to be seen.

“I think there’s some more improvement in her and I can’t see why she wouldn’t keep going forward.”

Ocean Road has now bankrolled $351,764 from a record of 8-3-1-2. As a juvenile, the bay was second to the useful Noon Star on debut at Nottingham, and she obliged next time out on the Lingfield Polytrack. Ocean Road returned to Lingfield for her 2021 reappearance in the Oaks Trial, where she placed third. She pressed on to Epsom for the Oaks (G1), but like a number of others, failed to fire on the boggy going. Still, she was a creditable sixth behind the runaway Snowfall.

In her only subsequent British appearance in the Oct. 8 Pride (G3) at Newmarket, Ocean Road was third to Ville de Grace and Lilac Road. That result has loomed large in three features of the nascent 2022 flat season. Ville de Grace missed by a whisker to Dreamloper in the May 1 Dahlia (G2), Lilac Road captured the May 12 Middleton (G2), and even the Pride seventh Lights On came back to beat males in the April 22 Sandown Mile (G2).

Bred by K. and Mrs. Cullen in Ireland, Ocean Road sold twice at Tattersalls. The $187,851 December weanling later went to David Redvers, on behalf of her current connections, for $193,048 as an October yearling.