New Zealand trainer Tony Pike will break new ground this Saturday when he saddles up Endless Drama in the Group 1 Crown Perth-Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot.
It will be the Cambridge-based trainer’s first time bringing a runner to Perth and his first time visiting Western Australia.
He brings a horse well-equipped for the travel and the pressures of a high class Weight-For-Age race.
Pike’s meticulous planning has led to multiple successes at the highest level in Australia previously.
Time and time again he picks the right races at the right time with the right horses and so often it pays off.
Take the 2016 Queensland winter carnival as a sample, in which Pike is a regular figure, where the astute New Zealander trained Provocative to win the Queensland Oaks and Sacred Elixir to win the J.J. Atkins Stakes.
In the case of Provocative, Pike gave her four starts in New Zealand in the early part of the year, one of those being the Group 2 Avondale Guineas.
Rather than pressing on to the Melbourne and Sydney’s lucrative autumn carnival, he set the filly for the Queensland carnival and won her two starts there.
It’s a strikingly similar path Sacred Elixir plotted to his win.
He had three runs across December and January in New Zealand and then wasn’t seen before his two wins from three starts in Queensland the following May and June.
When reflecting on the Group 1 double in 2016, Pike said he was proud of the achievement and how the planning paid off.
“Brisbane just fits in so well with our racing,” Pike told TABradio.
“You’re sort of coming off the back of our carnival in March so our better horses can have a bit of a break.
“Admittedly, Queensland is probably a tier down from those Sydney and Melbourne carnivals.
“To win two Group 1 races in Australia on the same day for a New Zealand trainer is a big deal.
“It doesn’t happen very often and to have the horses good enough to come over here and compete at that level is a real thrill.”
Fast forward three years and it was a case of lightning striking twice when The Bostonian took out the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 and the Kingsford-Smith Cup.
Those wins came off the back of running competitively in four Group 1 races between 1200m and 1600m in New Zealand in January and February.
Pike will look to replicate those deeds in Perth’s premier sprint race this weekend with the Qatar Bloodstock-owned Endless Drama.
It’s a strikingly similar preparation for Endless Drama to those of Provocative, Sacred Elixir and The Bostonian.
He won the Group 2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa on August 17 and beat Te Akau Shark and Melody Belle in the process, before he was unplaced in the Tarzino Trophy on August 31.
Mark Hills says Kiwi raider, Endless Drama, should not be underestimated in the Winterbottom Stakes. He caught up with @santassnippets at Ascot this morning.@TABradio @santassnippets @TAB_touch @PerthRacing @OfficialRWWA pic.twitter.com/Cq0Pj9wr3u
— The Races WA (@theracesWA) November 26, 2019
Saturday will mark almost three months between runs and Pike feels a sense of timing.
“He’s an old warhorse now,” he said.
“The different environment has really done wonders for the horse.
“I can’t complain with the way he’s been going and he’s travelled well.
“We had a few feet issues with him back in New Zealand early in the spring and Melbourne was just a bit too tough for the old horse.
“It was a nice lead in to the Winterbottom with two months between runs.
“It would be nice to come down here and pick up a Group 1 for the owners.”
Endless Drama is rated a $26 chance with TABtouch for the Winterbottom Stakes, behind Trekking ($2.70 into $2.35).
Pike said Trekking, who Endless Drama finished third to in the Stradbroke Handicap, deserved favouritism but felt the Godolphin sprinter was far from a certainty in the $1 million event.
“He’s clearly the best horse in the race,” he said.
“He’s been to a lot of dances, he’s been to Melbourne back to Sydney then back to Melbourne and flying over to Perth.
“On form he should be winning but at $2.70 he’s probably getting short enough.”
Endless Drama’s Winterbottom campaign is what Pike describes as “dipping the toe in the water” for potential future Perth campaigns.
If past history is anything to go by, Pike and Endless Drama will make quite the splash in the Winterbottom Stakes this weekend.