Pierata’s trainer Greg Hickman says the $14 million Everest is racing’s equivalent of the Olympic Games and he might just have the horse to win gold.
The All Aged Stakes hero was one of the first horses locked in for a slot in Saturday’s 1200-metre The Everest but the groundwork to get him there started long before.
It takes four years to win a medal at the Olympic Games and it is a similar devotion to what you have to have with a horse, and you have to have the right horse,” Hickman said.
“If you can win an Everest, it’s like a gold medal.”
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Hickman’s journey to the world’s richest turf race is a quintessential Australian story of a boy from the bush who followed his dreams, persisted through the lean times and finally landed a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
Hailing from the same NSW country town as supermodel Miranda Kerr, the Gunnedah-born Hickman grew up around horses but fell in love with thoroughbreds.
After honing his skills as a picnic jockey and bush trainer, he and wife Erika made the move to Sydney.
“I always had dreams I wanted to train in Sydney. I wanted to compete at the top level,” Hickman said.
After nine years at Crown Lodge, Hickman went out on his own and despite only ever having a smaller team of horses he regularly identified cheap yearlings who could gallop.
Stakes winners Sportsman, Sir Dex, Royal Purler and Mirjulisa Lass all had the Hickman polish, but none has been in the stratosphere of Pierata.
A winner of eight of his 21 starts, Pierata cemented his status as one of the country’s best sprinters with a breakthrough Group One win in the autumn.
He ran slashing sectional times when runner-up to Redzel in the Concorde Stakes (1000m) and again produced his trademark turn of foot to win The Shorts (1100m).
Pierata wound up his Everest preparations with a strong gallop during his final serious piece of work on Tuesday and hours later came up with the inside barrier in the The Everest field of 12.
But with nine other Group One winners in Saturday’s race, there has been no room for complacency
Most days, Hickman will take a moment, cast an experienced and watchful eye over every inch of the stallion and wonder if there is anything else he can improve.
“Is he too fat? Too skinny? I check that every hair is in place, analyse what is going on,” Hickman said.
“Then I just sit there and have a look at him. I work out what I’ve got to do and I’ve got a fair idea how I’ve got to go about it now when I’ve had him this long.
I am as confident as I can be going into this race.”
The biggest changes in Pierata this campaign have been his size and strength.
He tipped the scales at 480kg when he won the All Aged and goes into Saturday’s Everest weighing 525kg.
But up against arguably the best field of sprinters assembled in recent memory – horses like two-time Everest winner Redzel, Santa Ana Lane, rising star Arcadia Queen and Godolphin’s outstanding mare Alizee – Pierata needs to be at the peak of his powers.
Like Hickman said, winning the Everest is going to take a gold medal performance.
Article from JustHorseRacing.com.au