By Ray Hickson
Six weeks after stamping himself as a major spring player, classy four-year-old Pierata is back to remind punters he’s a live Epsom chance at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Trainer Greg Hickman said the gap between runs, forced by a leg infection that ruled him out of the Tramway Stakes two weeks ago, from the Missile to the Group 3 $160,000 Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m) is of no concern.
“He hasn’t missed any work whatsoever, all he missed was the race he was going to run in,’’ Hickman said.
“We’ve always planned to try to win a Group 1 this time in, it’s all about trying to make him a stallion prospect.
Pierata downs Kementari in the Missile Stakes at Randwick on August 4
“When you have little hiccups along the way you just have to change where you’re going to.’’
The setback saw Hickman rule out any thought of chasing an Everest slot and it put the Epsom back in frame. Pierata is on the $11 line in betting for the Group 1 $1m Epsom Handicap (1600m) on September 29 and held sway as the $2.90 favourite on Thursday for the Bill Ritchie.
Jockey James McDonald was able to give Pierata a perfect run from an awkward alley in the Missile Stakes and he’ll be charged with the same job again come Saturday from the outside barrier.
But the Bill Ritchie has fallen away in numbers and Pierata will likely have only six or seven rivals.
“If you’re in a field of 20 and you drew 10 or 12 you’d be reasonably happy,’’ Hickman said.
“At 1400m he’ll just come out and slot in wherever he wants to. We can’t do anything about barriers.’’
Pierata worked over 1200m on Tuesday and finished off his final 600m in a style that more than satisfied his trainer.
It’d be unusual if the entire didn’t produce such a gallop ahead of a race.
“All he does is his best all the time, him and the trainer, so what will be will be,’’ he said.
“I’m happy with what he’s done during the week.’’
With 54kg in the Epsom, Hickman feels he’s weighted well enough to both attract one of the leading riders and ensure he can win the race.
Boban (2013) is the last horse to claim the Bill Ritchie and Epsom Handicap double.