New Zealand trainer Tony Pike is taking advantage of the new Polytrack surface at his home-base in Cambridge as it enables him to prepare younger members of his team deeper into the winter months.
Pike sent out impressive trial winner Mr Blue Sky on Tuesday on the synthetic surface, and will likely race the Zoustar youngster later this season, whereas in years gone by a similar style of horse might have gone to the paddock.
Placed in two of his three starts in mid-summer, Pike can see an opportunity to clear maiden ranks for a horse he believes will make a nice three-year-old.
“We would like to clear maidens with him this preparation if we can get the right track conditions,” Pike said.
“Then we’d give him a short break and head to the three-year-old races. We might go to Cambridge on June 30 or Ruakaka for the two-year-old races there.
“A horse like him is going to hate a heavy track so the Polytrack is a good alternative to get the maiden win out of the way and it makes it a lot easier in the spring.”
Like many stables, it is a transitional period for Pike, with several better members of the team filtering back into work, while he also keeps close tabs on his small team campaigning in Queensland.
Amongst them are promising juveniles Lebanese Trader and Tutukaka, the latter running an eye-catching third in the Listed The Phoenix (1500m) last Saturday at Eagle Farm and certain to be hard to beat in the Listed Tattersall’s Life Member Stakes (2YO) (1800m) at the same venue on June 26.
“Lebanese Trader will run at Doomben over 1350m on the 23rd and not lead like he did last start and Tutakaka will head to the 1800m two-year-old race, which has always been his target race,” Pike said.
Talented three-year-old colt Not An Option will be giving Eagle Farm a wide berth after disappointing when 11th behind Apache Chase in the Group 3 Fred Best Classic (1400m) having previously charged home late for fourth in a three-year-old race at Doomben.
“He is going to trial at the Gold Coast,” Pike said.
“The Eagle Farm track was too firm for him the other day, he just never let go at all after running well first up. He is not the only one, quite a few of them looked like they were packing up and heading home with the track conditions there.
“He will trial at the Gold Coast on the 22nd and then run in the Winx Guineas (Group 3, 1600m) at the Sunshine Coast on July 3.
“I will also have Embers run at Doomben mid next week. She was quite unlucky last start.”
Closer to home, Pike is hoping to welcome star galloper Bostonian back into the fold within a month.
“He is still pre-training up at David Archer’s (owner) but there is the potential to bring him in at the end of the month and work our way into the spring,” Pike said.
“He has obviously had some issues but if he holds together, we are likely to take him to Sydney in the spring, but we will monitor that in the coming months.”
Last season’s Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) winner Sherwood Forest is another who will have a slow build-up through the winter.
“He will most likely head to Melbourne in the spring. Obviously, the opportunities for a horse like him are wide and varied and it just depends on how competitive he is,” Pike said.
While several youngsters will ignite the stable early into the spring, Group Two-placed mare Intrigue has joined the Chris Waller camp with a view to going to stud across the Tasman in the spring, while talented juvenile Rangi Toa, a winner of two of his three starts for Pike, has been sold and will join the Waterhouse-Bott stable.
Last Saturday’s Listed Castletown Stakes (1200m) winner Danger Strykes has gone for a brief break ahead of a return for some of the better three-year-old fillies races.
“She has gone to the paddock and will have three weeks out then get ready for some of the three-year-old filly races,” Pike said.
“A number of the good two-year-olds have just come back in, like Doubtful Sound and Khufu, ahead of their three-year-old season, so hopefully it is going to be a pretty exciting spring.
“We have a couple of two-year-olds I rate really highly and usually those horses would be out until well into the spring because you don’t want to trial them on heavy tracks but the Polytrack changes that.
“Even from an educational point of view, you are going to have a lot of two-year-olds that are going to trial up in the next month and they are going to be a lot more forward in the spring to what they usually are.
“It is not the be all and end all, but it is a great tool to educate them and get them ready in the spring. It will be a lot easier.”