New Zealand trainer Tony Pike is gearing up for another Queensland Carnival raid this winter, which will include a few runners from outside stables.
With a host of promising two and three-year-olds to step out at trials and on raceday in the coming weeks, Pike is still assessing those up to the grade.
“We will probably get a bit closer in the next week to 10 days in regards to who is going but there is another couple we will take over for people,” Pike said.
“Ben Foote has asked us to look after Babylon Berlin while she is over there and possibly Letzbeglam of Lance Noble’s as well.
“Excluding those we will hopefully have about eight, but it will depend on how the two-year-olds go in the next week or so.
“We haven’t travelled for a while so I think getting out of the country and over to the carnival again will be great.”
The astute horseman has enjoyed Group One success at the Queensland Winter Carnival previously, with the likes of Sacred Elixir (JJ Atkins) and Provocative (Queensland Oaks) but has also picked off lower-hanging fruit and expects to have a good spread amongst his travelling team this year.
Some of his juvenile talent is likely to be on show at Te Rapa and Hastings this weekend and he hopes they can make their mark in Brisbane this winter.
“We have long had it (travelling to Queensland) in the back of our minds, but more than that, we have a couple of two-year-olds that could be up to some of the better races over there,” he said.
“Probably Rudyard and Slipper Island, it is a good opportunity to run through the winter there and get some mileage and a trip away under their belt which sets them up for their three-year-old season.”
It is a recipe Pike has utilised well in the past, including last year where Tutukaka placed in the Listed The Phoenix (1500m) and won the Listed Tattersall’s Life Member Stakes (1830m) at Eagle Farm as a two-year-old before campaigning in Victoria in the spring where he won the Listed Geelong Classic (2200m).
“Also, with Ellerslie and Te Aroha out of action here, we have a nice couple of staying type maidens that we are thinking of taking over there as our tracks will come under pressure this season,” Pike said.
“There are two or three others going over for the better surfaces and more opportunities through the next couple of months.”
While Pike is still weighing up who to take with him to Queensland, Group Three winner There You Go is assured of a plane ticket.
The daughter of Niagara pleased with her runner-up effort in a 1000m trial at Avondale on Tuesday, making her return after finishing ninth in the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) in November.
“There You Go will definitely go over, she is owned in Australia,” Pike said. “She had the hiccup stumbling coming out of the gates in the Guineas but she seems, off her trial today, that she has come back in good order. She has definitely been pencilled in to go.
“I don’t think she will get an Oaks trip, we will just have to ease her way through there. There are a lot of nice fillies and mares races over there for that sort of horse with varying distances.
“Part of the reason she is heading over to Australia is because she can stay over there and head to Melbourne after the carnival. Her owner Steve Bruhn lives in Melbourne and it was always the intention after her three-year-old season here to head over there.
“I think up to a mile is her best.”
Stablemate Khufu also placed in his 1000m trial at Avondale and Pike said he will have another trial before a decision is made on his Queensland trip.
“Khufu was a bit fresh today, he will trial again at Cambridge in two weeks’ time and we will make a decision if he heads over,” Pike said.
“He will be nicely rated over there and could work his way through the grades and aim for something a bit better later on.”
Looking ahead to Te Rapa on Saturday, Pike will likely have two runners in the Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre Stakes Prelude (1100m), including Patton and Rudyard.
“At this stage Patton and Rudyard will definitely run at Te Rapa and Dimaggio will probably go to Hawke’s Bay as 1300m first up for him will be perfect,” Pike said.
“Rudyard trialled up lovely (over 950m at Cambridge) and is starting to come up more professional. He relaxed really nicely and he didn’t push the button on him at any stage, just worked up nicely and went through the gears and I was rapt in the trial.”
Smart galloper Roconono, who won well in Rating 65 company on Derby Day, will contest a strong three-year-old 1200m race at Te Rapa. Meanwhile Charlie Chuckle and Viva Le Vada are both nominated for a three-year-old 1400m maiden at Hawke’s Bay, with Pike to assess barriers and jockey availability before deciding on starters, with New Zealand hosting three race meetings on Saturday, coupled with COVID issues, resulting in the jockey ranks being thinly-spread.
“Roconono has done a good job against the older horses in a Rating 65 on Derby Day and this will probably be his biggest test on Saturday up against some quality three-year-olds, but it will tell us if we go to the Cambridge Breeders’ Stakes (Group 3, 1200m) or not,” Pike said.
“Charlie Chuckle is still a work in progress, he is a lovely big scopey horse but isn’t quite sure of what he is doing yet but his two trials this time in have been good.
“Viva Le Vada is going to make a really nice staying horse, both his trials have been really good. He is a nice horse going forward once he gets up over further.”