Tony Pike is stepping into unfamiliar territory with Endless Drama this weekend, but a thumbs up from former successful jockey Mark Hills has the Cambridge trainer confident he has made the right move.
Endless Drama, winner of the Gr.2 Easter Handicap (1600m) and the Gr.2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m), is in Perth in the care of Hills in preparation for an attack on the Gr.1 $A1 million Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot on Saturday.
“I’ve never taken a horse to Perth before or been there myself so it’s new to me,” Pike said. “Leith (Innes, jockey) is going over to ride him and we’re heading over on Wednesday.
“Mark took him over and he rides him in all his work here at home so he knows him well. He worked him on the course proper at Ascot on Saturday morning and was rapt with his work.”
Pike decided on the Winterbottom Stakes for Endless Drama after weighing up all Australian possibilities for the son of Lope De Vega.
“It looked a nice option for him and outside of Melbourne it’s a tier down,” Pike said.
“The club was keen to get him there when taking into account his form around Melody Belle and Te Akau Shark and they’ve paid all the transport as well as some other costs.”
Endless Drama beat Te Akau Shark (second) and Melody Belle (fourth) in the Foxbridge Plate before finishing unplaced in the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m), won by Melody Belle.
“He was caught wide in the Tarzino and we battled foot problems with him from there on,” Pike said.
“He’s been off for a while, but he goes well fresh and as long as he gets a reasonable draw he should be a big chance.”
The Winterbottom Stakes field will include the James Cummings-trained Trekking, to whom Endless Drama finished third in the Gr.1 Stradbroke (1400m) at Eagle Farm.
Trekking has since won the Gr.2 Schillaci (1100m) at Caulfield in October before finishing third to Yes Yes Yes in the $A14 million Everest (1200m) at Randwick and a last-start second to Pierata in the A$1 million Redzel Stakes (1300m) at Rosehill.
“Endless Drama will probably start second or third favourite behind Trekking,” Pike said. “Trekking has been to a few dances so hopefully he’s getting a bit tired and we can beat him fresh-up.”
Endless Drama has settled in well at Simon Miller’s stable, but it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for him since he left New Zealand for Melbourne. His onward flight from Melbourne to Perth last week was delayed because of a fuel leak.
“He was all set to go when it happened so he went back to the stables,” Pike said. “He’s so laidback it didn’t worry him. After all, he’s been all around the world.”
Endless Drama won twice in Ireland, raced in England, chased champion Winx home when third in the 2017 Gr.2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Randwick and won the feature the following year before transferring to Pike last March.
Endless Drama will fly out of Perth a few days after the Winterbottom Stakes and could be back at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day with Pike considering freshening him for the Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m), while the other option is to wait for the Gr.1 J. R. & N Berkett Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham on January 18.
“We’ll just see how he does when he gets home,” Pike said. “If he needs longer, he’ll wait for the Telegraph and flag the Railway.”
The Sistema Railway is also being considered for Kali, who finished sixth behind winning stablemate Loire in the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m).
“We’re playing with a few options for Kali,” Pike said.
“She could go into the Railway fresh-up or go for the Levin Classic (Gr.1, 1600m) at Trentham in January. She’ll only get 51.5kg in the Railway and three-year-olds haven’t a bad record in it.
“She’s having a short break now and will be back in the stable next Wednesday.”
Pike said it’s best to overlook Kali’s 1000 Guineas effort.
“They stood in the gates for a long time and she got upset and hit the front of the gates and got a blood nose,” he said. “That put her out the back and she had too much to do. She was supposed to be in front or outside the leader.”
Loire has pleased connections since winning the New Zealand 1000 Guineas and is being set for the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham on March 14.
Like Endless Drama, Loire has also been inconvenienced by flight problems as her flight to Riccarton suffered mechanical failure.
“She got to the airport and there was a delay because of mechanical failure so she had to come back home and go back up the next day to Auckland,” Pike said. “It obviously didn’t worry her the way she won down there.”
Sherwood Forest, who was third to Catalyst in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), is due back in the Pike stable next Wednesday, while Sacred Day will return the following Monday, the same day as Loire.
“Sherwood Forest may go into the Levin Classic fresh-up,” Pike said. “He’s a genuine stayer and his goal is the New Zealand Derby (Gr.1 2400m).
“I’m not sure what we’re going to do yet with Sacred Day,” Pike said. “He was going for the City Of Auckland Cup (Gr.3, 2400m), but it could come around a bit quick so we could lean more toward taking him to Aussie.”
– NZ Racing Desk