Matamata trainer Darryn Weatherley was in Sydney on Sunday awaiting the impending arrival of stable star Pier who will contest the Gr.2 Hobartville Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill on Saturday.
The winner of three of his five starts, including the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) and Gr.2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m), Pier warmed up for his Australian campaign with an eye-catching third placing in the Gr.3 Almanzor Trophy (1200m) when narrowly defeated by Maven Belle.
“His run was fantastic at Pukekohe. It was a set weights and penalties race and he carried top-weight of 60 kilos, plus his momentum was stopped half way down the straight with nowhere to go. So, to be able to pick himself up and find the line like he did was quite encouraging,” Weatherley said.
Training in partnership with his daughter Briar, Darryn Weatherley is taking the first shift in Sydney before Briar assumes control from Saturday.
“I am over here for the first week and Briar will come over for the race on Saturday and then stay on while I head home,” he said.
“If he is competitive, we will press on to the Randwick Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m) but we will just take it one step at a time.
“We are staying at Blake Ryan’s at Hawkesbury. It is very similar to what we have at home. It’s a nice peaceful environment and hopefully he settles in well for us.”
It will be a family gathering of sorts, with Weatherley’s son Sam set to continue his association with the gelding.
“Sam is coming over and he will ride. He has also got a ride on Saturday for Andrew Forsman (Saint Bathans), so he has got two rides penciled in,” Weatherley said.
“He rode nearly 50 winners when he was over here with Chris Waller so he’s no stranger to the jockeys’ room here and obviously he knows the horse well.”
Weatherley, who along with wife Louise and long-time supporter Barry Wright, part-owns Pier, who races in the colours of Ozzie Kheir.
The trainer is under no illusion of the task facing the son of Proisir, as he tackles elite company that includes imposing Godolphin three-year-old Aft Cabin.
“Aft Cabin looks a very smart animal. I think our little guy will be a bit like Rocky taking on the bloke that killed Apollo Creed,” Weatherley said.
“But you can’t keep running away from them. We need to work out whether we deserve to be here or should be back home and on Saturday we will know more.
“Ideally we will head towards the Randwick Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m), then we will make a decision as to whether he steps up to the 2000m of the Rosehill Guineas (Gr.1) or we throw a cheeky nomination in for a Doncaster (Gr.1, 1600m) with a light weight.
“Those plans are all up in the air at the moment. We will see if we can get a tow rope on Aft Cabin and run him pretty close, then we would stay on, but I am a realist, if we can’t match up, then we go home.
“Having said that, I have got all the faith in the world with the horse and I am full of confidence in him. Hopefully we get a nice run in transit and can show the Aussies what he has got.
“I am looking forward to it and I have always wanted to have a horse good enough to put on a plane and give it a crack and I am pretty sure Pier will try his heart out and he won’t let us down.”
Weatherley also has a good opinion of progressive stayer Ess Vee Are who won well at Te Rapa over 2100m on Saturday and said that Australia could be an option longer-term for the son of Shocking.
“He is a four-year-old and he is only going to get better in time. I think this time next year he will be a more furnished horse,” Weatherley said.
“He is such a big boy with a big frame and to run in a Derby like he did last year was a big achievement just to get there. He keeps improving and Opie rode him yesterday with Sam suspended.
“Opie has won a few races in his time, and he got off and said we have got a smart stayer on our hands, so that was quite encouraging. His next run will be back at Te Rapa in three weeks’ time in an Open 2200m race. He will have a break after that, and we could look at Melbourne in the spring.”