Fireworks were expected at Te Rapa on Saturday as several of last season’s equine stars kicked off their new spring campaigns in the Group 2 US Navy Flag Foxbridge Plate (1200m) and it was recent Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) placegetter Endless Drama who delivered with a stunning victory.
The Tony Pike-trained eight-year-old had been given a short let-up after returning from his Brisbane exertions with Pike mindful of keeping weight off the giant frame of the Lope de Vega entire. That decision paid off big time as the former Chris Waller-trained galloper paraded as a picture of health before the race with punters installing him an $8 fourth favourite behind the Te Akau Racing pair of Te Akau Shark and Melody Belle and up and comer Helena Baby.
Given an economical trip from an inside barrier, Endless Drama settled in midfield during the early stages of the contest as Malambo and Southern Icon duelled out in front. Rider Leith Innes had his charge off the fence at the 600m and the combination glided into contention before Innes asked for an effort at the 300m. Endless Drama responded instantly and sprinted clear before holding out the late charge of Te Akau Shark who stormed home from second last to pip outsider Comeback for second.
Pike was delighted with the result as he prepares his charge for a tilt at the Group 1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings in a fortnight. “He’s become a real stable pet this horse,” Pike said. He came back from Brisbane in great order and trialled superbly here a couple of weeks ago. “There was a big query on the track but it was a perfect ride from Leith. The biggest thing is just waiting as he has only got a short, sharp sprint but he waited and waited and got it right today. “Thanks to Chris Waller for leaving him with me and to Qatar Bloodstock (owners) as they are big investors in the industry.”
Pike had been confident of his chances during the race after the way he saw the horse was travelling during the running. “He settles beautifully in his races although he got a bit further back than we thought. “1200m is probably a touch short but he was electric late and now we’re looking forward to going to Hawkes Bay over 1400m although I’m hoping he won’t run into Te Akau Shark as hopefully he is heading to Australia and we don’t have to have another crack at him.”
Te Akau Racing trainer Jamie Richards was philosophical in defeat after Te Akau Shark produced the run of the race behind the winner, while Melody Belle fought on strongly for fourth after tackling the leaders at the top of the straight. “He (Te Akau Shark) was beaten by the draw as he got back a long way but 1400m next time should be ideal,” he said. “He will go to Australia now as we have to back our judgement but we’ll go home and lick our wounds and we’ll be alright. “She (Melody Belle) just needs 1400m now as she is a year older but she will be fine.”
Te Akau Shark will now head to Sydney for the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400) at Royal Randwick on September 7 with his main mission being the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) at the same venue on October 5, while Melody Belle looks likely to clash with Endless Drama again in the Tarzino Trophy on August 31.
The victory represents win number five form 26 starts for Endless Drama who commenced his career in Ireland before joining Chris Waller’s Australian stable in late 2016 where he won the Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) before transferring to Pike earlier this year following an unplaced run in the Group 1 Haunui Farm WFA Classic (1600m).