story by Frank Cotolo / quotes by Dave Briggs
With catbird-seat comfort, betting outsider Ocean Rock, with Dan Noble driving, won the $600,000 Breeders Crown Open Pace at The Meadowlands on Oct. 30, crossing the wire in 1:48.3 over the odds-on favorite, Allywag Hanover.
A speed-loaded field of 10 older pacing males competed the menu of Breeders Crown finals for 2021 with a 16-1 winner. Ocean Rock was one of only a pair of betting outsiders to win in the second program of Breeders Crown divisional finals (the other two-digit-paying winner was the Mare Trot Final’s Felicityshagwell S).
The humungous public choice in the Open Pace was the Brett Pelling-trained fireball Allywag Hanover. In the race, he led the stalwart field from the :53.2 half through three-quarters in 1:21.2 before Ocean Rock, who never left the pylons while maintaining the second spot until the late stretch, came out and charged at the leader within striking distance of passing him at the wire.
Allywag Hanover was all out trying to hold second but wound up in the show spot when another outsider, Cattlewash, at 9-1, with plenty of pace left after tipping three wide, put in a frantic few steps when it counted most.
Ocean Rock paid $34.80 to win.
“I thought he raced super,” said Todd McCarthy, Allywag Hanover’s driver. “We just had to do a little bit too much early. That first half was pretty steep for him. Usually, he’s been [on top] by the turn. Just having to do that little bit more today, I was worried it was going to take a toll on him late. 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.”
Noble was not sure he was going to beat Allywag Hanover when he marked the speedy three-quarters mark. “I felt halfway down the lane that I thought I had it won,” he said, “and I was just hoping to maintain that position when I got by Allywag.”
Ocean Rock, out of the On The Attack mare Ocean Pearl, was teetering on the brink of millionaire status before winning the Breeders Crown Open Pace. He now has earnings of $1,209,522.
The Midwest product began his stakes parade with an Aug. 14 Northfield Park win in the $100,000 Myron Charna President’s Pace and campaigned against the best Buckeye older pacers at Scioto where he won an $85,000 Ohio Sires Stakes event and beat Nicholas Beach (also in the Crown final) in the $135,000 Jim Ewert Memorial, the first in his track-hopping stakes triptych that included the $182,000 Hoosier Park Pacing Derby at Indiana’s Hoosier Park and the $168,000 Dayton Pacing Derby at Ohio’s Dayton Raceway.
Oddly enough, Ocean Rock lost to Allywag Hanover in Lexington, finishing fifth in an Allerage Stakes for older pacing males, which was his last race before leaving Kentucky to head farther north and meet his most competitive group.
Aside from Chris Page steering Ocean Park to the win in the Hoosier Pacing Derby, top Ohio reinsman Dan Noble guided the 4-year-old gelded son of prolific Ohio sire Rockin Amadeus through the summer surge of stakes that hit its zenith in New Jersey.
Christi Noble, driver Dan Noble’s wife, trains Ocean Rock. She took one of the three byes in the field to get into the final (the others were Allywag Hanover and Catch The Fire).
“One thing I do know about this horse, and it’s happened in Ohio, we took the bye based on the decision that he is much better on a three- or four- week layoff,” Dan said.
Noble agreed that is an unusual pattern, but insisted he and Christi have learned that is how Ocean Rock likes it and how they like it as a husband-wife team.
“It means a lot to work together,” Dan said, making a point of expressing how they work with “this very special horse.”
The Noble family is a generational business; Dan is the son of the late Ohio horseman Sam “Chip” Noble III.
“The owners that bred him were in business with my father,” Dan said of Ocean Rock’s owner Sandra S. Burnett of Ohio. “And it was one of the last ones that he trained before he passed.”
Asked what his father would make of his son winning his first Breeders Crown, Dan’s voice quivered and tears came to his eyes.
“I just wish (he was here so) I knew what he would say about Ocean Rock,” Dan said.
— with files from Ken Weingartner