By Ray Hickson
Tommy Berry’s first impression of outstanding sprinter Pierata wasn’t exactly a lasting one but he’s keen to give the five-year-old’s connections a send off to remember at Randwick on Saturday.
Back on September 19 in 2016 Berry rode the son of Pierro into fourth place in what was the horse’s first barrier trial and while it took a bit of jogging his memory he said it didn’t really stand out.
Trainer Greg Hickman didn’t kick Pierata’s career off for another seven months after that trial and Berry didn’t become his regular rider until they combined to win the Sydney Stakes in 2018 with Corey Brown in the chair for all but three of his first 13 starts.
“I liked him enough but obviously not enough because I didn’t take him at his first start,’’ Berry said.
“I took one of the Hawkes’s in the first race he won and we ran second to him, he was impressive on that day but he was probably half the horse he is now.
“Every prep he’s come back and been better and this is the best he’s felt in any preparation.”
In the past three years he has managed nine wins from 25 starts and $5.7 million and after two runs back from a spell Berry is confident they can add a second Group 1 $480,000 Schweppes All Aged Stakes (1400m) to that record.
Pierata’s lone Group 1 to date came in last year’s All Aged Stakes so he’s aiming to be the first multiple winner since Sunline (2000 and 2002) and the first to defend the title since Rough Habit won in 1992 and 1993.
Berry makes a significant point about Pierata’s fourth placing in the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) two weeks ago that Nature Strip had the field chasing from a long way out and he just couldn’t sustain the run because of that.
Punter’s Intelligence sectional data showed both Pierata and Santa Ana Lane ran the fastest 800m-600m of 11.07 as they tried to keep in touch and Pierata was still able to run the second best last 200m of 12.26.
“That’s where Nature Strip is so good, a lot of the good horses in that race were taken out their comfort zone by the 800m and by the time you get to the furlong you’ve peaked on your run,’’ he said.
“He’s a horse that has a powerful turn of foot but he hasn’t been able to use his strengths up against Nature Strip. When we raced him in The Galaxy last year it took me until the last stride to level up with him and that was due to being out of his comfort zone for the whole race.
“This race is going to suit him down to the ground, he’s very competitive at 1200m but his form is almost impeccable at 1400m.
“It means you can have him closer and be more comfortable and when he gets to travel he can let down with that turn of foot. You can keep him on the bit for longer and when you ask him for an effort you can see how sharp he is.”
Pierata runs fourth in the TJ Smith Stakes April 4
As expected the All Aged has drawn a classy line up of sprinters with the likes of Santa Ana Lane, Bivouac, Dreamforce and Fierce Impact and Pierata has drawn around the middle in the 14 horse line up.
Berry partnered Pierata, who opened $4.80 with TAB, in his final serious work on Tuesday morning ahead of the All Aged and declared him spot on for his likely swansong.
“He had a good hitout because he had a decent blow after his last run,’’ he said.
“After I rode him it put me at ease, he was very clean winded and he worked nice and solid on a soft track.
“If it’s soft on the day he will get through it and if it is drier that’s even better. There’ll be no excuses on the weekend, he’s as good as he’s ever been.”