As the temperature in racing heats up in the coming months in Australia so too does the activity in the top New Zealand based stables as they look to plunder some of the riches on offer.
The Cambridge based trainer Tony Pike, who is no stranger to tackling big feature races in Australia, has always had the Group 1 Victoria Derby in his sights for Tutukaka, a son of Tavistock, and he has put all of his considerable expertise in plotting a careful and methodical path towards that goal.
Tutukaka’s first preparation covered four runs, from April 17 to June 26, as Pike gradually stepped the gelding up in distance … from the 1300m at Hastings on debut, to the 1400m at the Sunshine Coast (he finished second in both of those starts), to the 1500m at Eagle Farm (where he finished third) … and then on to that first career victory (in the Tatts Stakes in Listed company) when stepping up to 1830m.
After a break, Tutukaka resumed on September 11 in the Listed Exford Plate over 1400m at Flemington for an eighth-place finish behind Mr Mozart.
He will be second-up in the Listed Super Impose Stakes at Flemington on Saturday and, fitter for that first-outing and now racing over the more favourable distance of 1800m, the result on Saturday should give Pike a good idea of how well Tutukaka is tracking.
Pike is orchestrating Tutukaka’s campaign from Cambridge which obviously is not ideal, but he has reported that Tutukaka pulled up very well from that first-up run and he is also buoyed by the fact that jockey Damian Lane has elected to stay on the horse, thereby giving an important vote of confidence to Tutikaka’s chances, both on Saturday and moving forward.
Pike’s plan beyond Saturday … all being well … would be to give Tutukaka another run leading into the Derby.
While he hasn’t decided on that exact route yet, that race will again provide a step up in distance … be it in the Moonee Valley Vase, the Caulfield Classic or the Geelong Classic, all races which Pike has mentioned will be given due consideration.