Battling Billy causes minor upset in Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup

Rotorua galloper Ocean Billy gave trainer Bill Pomare his biggest thrill on a racecourse when he proved too tough in the concluding stages when taking out Saturday’s Group I $500,000 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) here at Ellerslie.

Rocket Spade (inner) masters Milford and Frontman (obscured, middle) to win the Group I $1,000,000 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) | Photo: Race Images - Kenton Wright
Ocean Billy races away with the Group I $500,000 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) | Photo Credit: Trish Dunell

The rugged Ocean Park five-year-old won the Group III Waikato Cup (2400m) back in December to frank his credentials for Saturday’s two-mile classic but had been strangely absent from most of the pre-race discussions before the race.

Settled well beyond mid-field by Johnathan Parkes, who was having his first ride on the gelding, Ocean Billy travelled sweetly as pacemakers In A Twinkling and Bluey’s Chance set up a solid pace out in front.

Parkes tracked eventual runner-up Charles Road into the race at the 800m before launching a lightning move on the point of the turn to scoot two lengths clear.

Race favourite Sound, Charles Road and Platinum Invador chased hard but Ocean Billy was going too well for them all as he maintained a powerful gallop to win by a comfortable two lengths.

Pomare was fighting back the tears as he described his rags to riches journey to the winner’s circle on one of the biggest days in New Zealand racing.

“My family is here while old Pete Ludgate, his part-owner who is ninety odd, is back in Rotorua so I’m just hoping his heart handles it,” he said.

“For me, a young maori boy who came out of nowhere, who slept under bridges and in cars, to suddenly have an Auckland Cup winner is incredible.

“This is the dream race to win and to think that he (Ocean Billy) has come out of a sprinting mare is amazing.

“I have to mention Justine Sclater as we both bred him and it was her vision to go to Ocean Park as I couldn’t afford it.

“I also owe my wife Suzi who rides him every day.

“She has been riding since she can walk and just loves horses to pieces. We will definitely be celebrating this tonight.”

Trainers Lance O’Sullivan (left) and Andrew Scott pose with the Group I Vodafone New Zealand Derby trophy | Photo: Trish Dunell
Rider Johnathan Parkes acknowledges the crowd as he returns aboard Gr.1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) winner Ocean Billy. Photo Credit: Trish Dunell

Pomare also paid tribute to his horse who he has never lost faith in despite some rough moments early on in his career.

“Everyone around this horse just loves him as he is the kindest horse you could get,” Pomare said.

“He kept doing damage to himself leading into his races, but he is an absolute beauty.

“I said to Johnathan that if he wanted to go past them then go past them as he had plenty there and they won’t get past him in the straight.

“He rode him perfectly and has given us such a thrill.”

While Pomare was unsure of his future plans for Ocean Billy he is considering paying a late nomination to take his place in the Group I Sydney Cup (3200m) at Randwick on April 10.

Parkes, who took out the 2018 edition of the race aboard Ladies First, was trying to let his achievement sink in during the immediate aftermath.

“It’s actually my second Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup and it’s such a big thrill,” he said.

“Bill presented the horse very very well as he looked outstanding when I went to mount up on him.

“Bill had instilled plenty of confidence in me and the horse has put in a terrific staying effort.

“I’d watched a number of his race replays and he’d never really gone a bad race.

“I had to use him up a little to put him the race but he’s that sort of horse who likes to keep rolling so I wasn’t too concerned.”

The Central Districts-based Parkes has been riding the crest of a wave at Ellerslie during the summer with his Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup victory his second feature event triumph after having won the DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) aboard On The Bubbles on NZB Karaka Million night in January.

Ocean Billy is a son of One Cool Cat mare Cool Storm and the grandson of Pomare’s quality sprinter Flying Free who won nine races including the Listed Rotorua Stakes (1400m). He has now won seven of his 20 starts and over $448,000 in prizemoney.

Watch: Ocean Billy proves too tough in the home straight as he careers to victory here at Ellerslie

Story c/- NZ Racing Desk