Tony Pike knows how to make an impact at the Queensland Winter Carnival, having saddled the likes of The Bostonian, Sacred Elixir and Provocative to Group One success in the Sunshine State.
The New Zealand horseman is again plotting a raid in search of Aussie dollars, with four young members of his team venturing across the Tasman on Monday.
While not necessarily shooting for the stars with his travelling party, Pike said winter racing in sunnier climbs would provide a solid foundation for loftier targets in the future.
“We’ve got four heading over tonight (Monday night) including three-year-olds Not An Option and Embers and two-year-olds Lebanese Trader and Tutukaka.
Group Two winning Not A Single Doubt colt Not An Option has prepared for his Brisbane targets with a trial at Taupo behind stablemate Kali.
“He is coming up super. I couldn’t be happier with the way he’s going,” Pike said. “He’s going to kick off at Doomben on Saturday week in a three-year-old set weights and penalties race.
“Bostonian actually won it two or three years ago. Then he’ll go two weeks later into the Fred Best Classic (Group 3, 1400m) and if he happened to be winning that, we’ve got the option of running him in the Stradbroke (Group 1, 1400m) off a light weight if we want to.
“For a colt he’s got a brilliant temperament. He’s bombproof.”
Group Three placed filly Embers will start off in lower grades with Pike hoping to gain some Australian black-type for the daughter of Darci Brahma who is raced by The Oaks Stud.
The quartet will fly into Sydney on Monday night and a couple are likely to trial at Rosehill on Friday before making their way north to Queensland by road over the weekend.
Having prepared Sacred Elixir to win a Group 1 JJ Atkins (1600m), Pike said the late-season feature was probably coming up a touch quickly for his two-year-old pair of Lebanese Trader and Tutukaka, the latter a Tavistock half-brother to star mare Melody Belle that finished an eye-catching second at his only start.
“For Tutukaka in particular he has got three nice races he can run in. I am hoping to get him to the VRC Derby (Group 1, 2500m) in the spring if he came up well enough in the spring,” Pike said.
“He is going to run in the same race that Sacred Elixir won as a two-year-old on Sunday week at the Sunshine Coast over 1400m. It is actually called the Sacred Elixir Handicap.
“He will then go to The Phoenix (Listed, 1500m) at Eagle Farm on June 5 and hopefully on to a Listed 1800m race for two-year-olds (Tattersall’s Stakes) three weeks later.
“It looks like a nice little program without taking on the best two-year-olds over there.
“We have quite a good spelling farm we use in Queensland and he can possibly have a break there before we get ready for a spring campaign and head down to Melbourne, which is what we did with Sacred Elixir.”
Pike believes Lebanese Trader, who placed in both of his starts to date, will also be suited out in trip.
“We’ve just got to get a win under his belt first,” he said. “There are a couple of similar races that will suit him towards the end of the carnival but he is very much over there on an educational campaign.”
Meanwhile, closer to home unbeaten juvenile Rangi Toa is likely to be Pike’s sole representative in Saturday’s Listed Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre 2YO Stakes (1100m) at Te Rapa.
“He’s a very laid back sort of colt. We’re going to put blinkers on him this weekend, we tossed up with the idea last time as well. He got there and waited for them a bit the other day over the 1300m and the blinkers will just sharpen him up,” Pike said.
Pike also reported that Kali could potentially join the Queensland raiding party at a later date, while Sherwood Forest will have a break with a view to competing in Melbourne in the spring.