Positioned perfectly by driver Dan Noble, Ocean Rock posted a 16-1 upset by knocking off the sport's top older pacers in the $600,000 Breeders Crown Open Pace on Saturday (Oct. 30) at The Meadowlands, the final Breeders Crown event of the year.
A number of stellar competitors flashed early speed to gun for position. Among those were Cattlewash (David Miller), first down to the cones but his lead was short-lived. Ocean Rock and Noble were eager to get a spot near the front, and 3/5 favourite Allywag Hanover (Todd McCarthy) was on that one's helmet.
Ocean Rock landed on the lead after a snappy :25.4 opening panel and then yielded to Allywag Hanover. The sport's fastest pacer of 2021 breezed through middle fractions of :53.2 and 1:21.2 as This Is The Plan (Yannick Gingras) started to advance first over but not threatening the leader.
"I was very happy with the position, and I had a lot of pace there," said driver Noble. "Just trying not to be anxious there to move early.
Turning for home, Ocean Rock looked live in the pocket and Noble emerged as a fresh threat to the pacesetter. Both drivers asked for reserves, with Noble getting the better response. David Miller angled Cattlewash to the three-path for a late rally but Ocean Rock and Noble would not be denied, hitting the wire a neck before Cattlewash and Allywag Hanover for the Breeders Crown victory. Cattlewash edged out Allywag Hanover for second, with Canadian entrant Enavant (Bob McClure) flying late for fourth.
The win in the Breeders Crown series is a first for driver Dan Noble, trainer Christi Noble and Ocean Rock's breeder / owner Sandra Burnett of Wilmington, Ohio.
"I'm glad that we finally got this opportunity this year, since we didn't get so much of it as a two and three-year-old, that he can really go to these big dances and be competitive," noted trainer Christi.
Ocean Rock had picked up victories in a number of Grand Circuit events over the last few months but finished fifth in his last start after a hot pace caught up with him at The Red Mile. He was one of the horses whose connections accepted a bye to advance straight to the final, and that move seemingly paid off in spades.
"We figured we'd better just take the bye that way he had one easy week going into it," said driver Dan Noble. "He's a lot better off of a two-week layoff and we're just hoping that would work out.
A four-year-old gelded son of Rockin Amadeus - Ocean Pearl, Ocean Rock now sports a seasonal summary of 8-4-0 from 17 starts and the winner's share of the purse gives adds him to harness racing's millionaire's club with a bankroll in excess of $1.2 million.
"I thought he raced super," noted Todd McCarthy, driver of Allywag Hanover. "We just had to do a little bit too much early. A bunch left and there was a little speed, so that first half was pretty steep for him.
"Usually, these last ones when I’ve left with him, he’s kind of been there by the turn. Just having to do that little bit more today, I was a little wary of that and I was worried it was going to take a toll on him late. But he hung in there like a champion, and he fought all the way to the wire. I couldn’t be happier with his performance. He was trying his heart out, but we had a good group following us today."
All the recaps from Saturday's Breeders Crown finals can be found in the 2021 Breeders Crown News Centre.