The track conditions at Te Rapa on Saturday are the only concern Cambridge trainer Tony Pike holds for Endless Drama heading into his first assignment of the season, the Group 2 U S Navy Flag Foxbridge Plate (1200m). Rated a Heavy10 surface on Wednesday, Pike said it is a bit of an unknown whether the eight-year-old entire would handle wet conditions in New Zealand.
He placed twice on heavy surfaces as a younger horse in Europe, however, he has failed to flatter in his three unplaced runs on heavy going in Australasia. “He has raced on good surfaces in Australasia, his form from Europe was quite good on heavier ground, but that was when he was a younger horse,” Pike said. “These older stallions, you don’t really know until they try it. We really don’t want a genuine heavy track. “I am hoping the weather holds over the next two to three days and it comes back to a half reasonable surface.”
Endless Drama has drawn barrier two for Saturday’s race, and with favoured runners Te Akau Shark (11), Melody Belle (12) and Helena Baby (10) all drawing outside barriers, Pike believes his charge will be right in contention to add another Group 2 victory to his tally. “Track conditions are going to be the main concern for a few horses there on Saturday,” Pike said.
“You would think with the new ground on the inside, barrier two should be an advantage and it should give him plenty of options where he positions in the running. “It depends how the track plays, but they (Te Akau Shark, Melody Belle and Helena Baby) are probably going to have to go back from their wide draws a touch. “It is a race that does look like there is pretty even speed, so it shouldn’t be too much of a disadvantage.”
Endless Drama pleased Pike with his trial win over 900m at Te Rapa last month and he said his runner should be on song for Saturday after a light freshen-up from his Queensland winter campaign where he placed in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m). “The old horse has come back with plenty of residual fitness from Brisbane and he trialled up very well at Te Rapa. He is not out of the race and is going to be a genuine each way chance. “Whether he can beat Te Akau Shark is a little bit up in the air, he does look exceptional, but I would be disappointed if he doesn’t run in the money.”
Endless Drama opened as a $6.50 fourth favourite for the Foxbridge Plate with TAB bookmakers, behind race favourite Te Akau Shark ($2.20), Melody Belle ($3.80), and Helena Baby ($4.60).
Pike will also line-up four other runners at the Hamilton track on Saturday, including four- year-old mare Samoon who will have her first start in New Zealand in the BCD Group 1200 for Trelawney Stud’s Brent, Cherry and Faith Taylor. “She is a mare who has come back from Mick Price’s,” Pike said. “She was just getting a little bit keen in her work when she first came home, so we have just given her two very quiet barrier trials. “Leith (Innes, jockey) was quite happy with the last one at Te Rapa, so it will be interesting to get a line on her on Saturday. “She is a lovely type of mare and she seems to have settled in well to the New Zealand environment, so she will be an interesting runner.”
Pike believes his remaining three runners Prince Hareem, Beauty Star and Five Stars are all in with a chance on Saturday. “They are all genuine each way chances,” he said. “Beauty Star finally broke through the other day. He wants to do a bit wrong in his races, but he is a horse with ability and the penny is starting to drop. “Five Stars was an encouraging run fresh-up over a distance (1200m) short of his best at Hastings and the step-up to 1600m will suit. “And Prince Hareem trialled really well at Te Rapa a couple of weeks ago. He will be a nice horse going forward.”