Astute trainer Tony Pike has an enviable record in Queensland and after a COVID-19-enforced break, he is back with a team of horses he says will make their presence felt in the winter carnival.
Pike was the toast of the town in 2019 after lifting The Bostonian to win both Group 1 features, the Doomben 10,000 (1200m) and Kingsford-Smith Cup (1300m), but hasn’t been able to saddle up a runner in the Sunshine State since.
Describing 2020 as a “shambles”, Pike was forced to transfer horses to other trainers if he wanted to race in Australia, but a recently established trans-Tasman travel bubble has breathed life into the Kiwi’s hopes of Group 1 glory this time around.
Pike will kick off Not An Option’s second Queensland campaign on Saturday after he fell flat in last year’s JJ Atkins at Eagle Farm.
While it is away from the bright lights of group-level racing, Pike is happy to start the colt back in the three-year-old plate (1350m) as he readies for a Fred Best showdown with boom galloper Ayrton in a fortnight.
“We need to get a run under his belt because he unfortunately pulled up with cardiac arrhythmia in his last start,” he said.
“He hasn’t run for a fair while, he had the two trials going in but we want to get him going for the Fred Best.
“He is drawn to get a reasonably soft run so I think he will run well, and then with a run under his belt I wouldn’t have thought he would be far off in the Fred Best.
“Obviously it is a ballot-free race so if he was able to win that, you’d consider the Stradbroke but we just want to get through Saturday first.”
The Bostonian gave Tony Pike a Queensland Group 1 double in 2019. Picture: AAPSource:AAP
Forced to watch on from New Zealand last year while his horses raced under the names of rival trainers, Pike is excited to be back in Queensland this time around.
“It was a shambles last year, it’s unfortunate because he was unlucky not to run in the top two in the (Group 1) Champagne Stakes last year then we pretty much had to pack the team up overnight and get them home,” he said, with the horse quickly transferring to Richard and Michael Freedman.
“Trying to train them over the phone wasn’t easy so it is good to be back in Brisbane for the first time in a couple of years, that is for sure.”
Pike also sends a three-pronged attack to the Sunshine Coast on Sunday where a half-brother to super mare Melody Belle begins his Australian career.
Tutukaka will have his second career start as Pike eyes some black-type races later in the carnival.
Originally published asPike thrilled to be back after pandemic ‘shambles’
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