By Ray Hickson
It was August 9 when Tommy Berry’s confidence that Pierata could win Saturday’s $14m The TAB Everest (1200m) began to grow.
The popular jockey had ridden Pierata in his first barrier trial this season, with his Everest place secured through Aquis Farm, at Warwick Farm and he simply hummed.
As a lover of fast cars, even back then Berry couldn’t wait to see what Pierata could do when he pushes the button on the five-year-old’s accelerator at full fitness come October 19 at Royal Randwick.
“From the time he stepped out in his first barrier trial he’s looked like the real deal,’’ Berry said.
“He came back a lot stronger, and he’s just doing everything right in his races. He used to float a bit in his races down the straight but now he’s attacking the line.’’
If Berry was brimming back then, based on a feel and an easy barrier trial, the horse has only given him cause to be even more confident with what he’s done on the racetrack.
Pierata broke the clock in his first-up storming second to Redzel in the Concorde Stakes (1000m) running 31.61 for his last 600m (Punter’s Intelligence).
He was again a sectional star as he backed up that effort winning The Shorts (1100m) a month ago again running the fastest last 600m of the day, on a soft track in 33.31, telling Berry and trainer Greg Hickman they have a serious contender.
“I think it’s his best prep yet by a long way and I think he has the best form lines leading into it,’’ Berry said.
“When he was beaten by Redzel he ran home in 31.61 so that showed he was in great order and I always thought his first and his third-up run would be his best.
“He was able to beat Redzel and Classique Legend and beat them well and I thought that would be the weakest of his three runs.
“He’s had the month between runs and he’s freshened up really well. As Greg says he’s had one of those faultless preps, everything they’ve wanted to do with him it has worked out perfectly.’’
A year ago Berry and Pierata won the Everest consolation, the Group 3 Sydney Stakes, in faster time than the Everest (though there was a deluge between the two races) and many were left to wonder what might have been.
Hickman isn’t one of those people.
The Warwick Farm trainer as watched Pierata lift in stature in the past 12 months, claim a Group 1 win, secure a stud deal and be given the chance to be the first stallion to win the TAB Everest.
“Everything has to go to plan because you are competing in a race where everyone is as good as everyone, they are all good enough to win the race,’’ he said.
“When he ran those sectionals first-up I couldn’t believe it, but it makes your hair stand up. All I know is he will be in for a fight.
“I’d love it if he was where he was (in the run) last year when he won the Sydney Stakes. As long as he gets the chance, gets put into the race at the right time.
“I have a confident jockey and a fit and well horse, put him in the right position and if he finishes like he did in his first run he will be very hard to beat.’’
Berry will be one of nine riders aiming to scale two peaks at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Not only does he have the ride on the third favourite ($6) with TAB in the Everest he’ll partner the hot $2.60 favourite Victorem in the $1.3m The Kosciuszko (1200m).
The story of how far back Berry and Hickman go is well known, but Berry also has a friendship with Victorem’s regular jockey Ben Looker so he’s keen to ride the horse to the best of his ability in the country feature.
Pierata wins The Shorts at Randwick on September 21
“I’ve only ridden him in the one trial but he’s a horse I’ve always had a lot of time for,’’ he said.
“I kept a keen interest in him and that’d due to being good mates with Ben Looker and I’ve enjoyed watching him have success on the horse.
“He’s always been a horse that improved every prep and he was borderline Group 1 horse over the winter carnival.’’
Victorem, the 2018 Country Championships winner, was a beaten favourite on heavy ground in the inaugural Kosciuszko but his trainer Jenny Graham says she’s been pleased with his trials and the fact the race will be run on a good track.
Berry said advice he received from Christian Reith, who rode Victorem in his first trial, and his experience from the Rosehill trial win on October 1 will help him when the gates open.
“The only thing he’s done that has affected him in races has been slow out of the gates,’’ he said.
“When I rode him in his second trial he pinged the gates for me and jumped well. It was nice to see him do that because that’s the only fault he’s had in the past.’’