A gritty victory over the older horses at Te Aroha last Friday in his first attempt beyond 1600m has Cambridge trainer Tony Pike convinced Sherwood Forest is right on track for his tilt at the Group 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie next month.
Pike elected to test the Fastnet Rock gelding over 2200m in rating 82 company at Te Aroha and he came through that test with flying colours as he showed plenty of heart to lump 59kgs to victory over Dunstan Feeds Stayers Championship (2400m) runner-up Joe’s Legacy in a tooth and nail struggle. “It’s very hard for the three-year-olds to win against the older horses, especially carrying that sort of weight in a quality line-up,” Pike said. “The field had plenty of depth and he carried half a kilo over so it was a pretty encouraging effort. “He was very hard to pull up as well although he is still very new and very green despite him having a few races under his belt.”
Pike will now set the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) placegetter for one of the traditional Derby lead-up events with the Group 2 Jamison Park Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Ellerslie on February 15. “He’s obviously going to stay all day so I don’t think the 2400m of the Derby is going to be a problem,” he said. “He may lack the class or turn of foot like a Dragon’s Leap but he is going to put himself in the race and it’s going to take a pretty good horse to get past him. “We used the Te Aroha race as a link run to his Derby prep and he will have his lead up in the Avondale Guineas next.”
Pike also reported that star sprinter (The) Bostonian was ready to trial in preparation for his upcoming Australian campaign. “I am really happy with him (Bostonian) as he’s coming up super, although the Telegraph (Group 1, 1200m) was just a bit too soon for him,” he said. “I wanted to give him a good break after Melbourne as he went well but the tracks were just too firm for him. “We pencilled in the Canterbury Stakes (Group 1, 1300m) for him first up in Sydney (March 7) so he will trial at Te Teko on February 11 and then head over.”
Pike was pleased with evergreen sprinter Endless Drama’s run in the Group 1 Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham where he finished just in behind the placegetters and will look for some give in the firm tracks before lining him up again. “He is going well the old boy but just needs some cut in the ground,” he said. “He hasn’t run poorly and just needed a touch of luck in the Telegraph where he got held up a bit. “We’ve pencilled in Te Rapa for him (BCD Sprint – Group 1, 1400m) on February 8 but will play that by ear as we need the right track conditions. “Alternatively, we can head back to Brisbane with him for some of those lesser sprints during their winter carnival.”
Pike was thrilled with the fresh-up performance of Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) winner Loire, who finished second behind Showbeel in the Group 3 Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) at Trentham, as she gets set for a tilt at the Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand Oaks (2400m) in March. “She came through Trentham well,” he said. “Obviously it’s a tough trip down there so she’s had a week in the pool and will head to Te Rapa (Group 2, 2000m) and then to Hastings (Group 2, 2100m) before we go to the Oaks.”
Pike also reported that classy two-year-old Not An Option will have a brief freshen-up now after finishing unplaced in the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) with a decision on whether he gets set for the Group 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) in March to be made this week. Pike was active on day one of the New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sale at Karaka outlaying $250,000 for Lot 86, the Tavistock half-brother to champion mare Melody Belle out of the Haunui Farm draft.