Globe-trotting topweight triumphs in Easter

5 min read

By Richard Edmunds

Well-travelled entire Endless Drama (IRE) (Lope de Vega {GB}) added a major New Zealand stamp to his passport with a powerful weight-carrying performance in Saturday’s G2 Manco Easter H. at Ellerslie.

Previously a Group 1 performer in Ireland, the UK and Australia, the seven-year-old crossed the Tasman earlier this year after his form tailed off in Sydney.

Making his fourth New Zealand start and his third for new trainer Tony Pike, Endless Drama enjoyed an economical run in the middle of a form-filled field of 18 horses in the time-honoured metric mile. Rider Leith Innes angled the top weight off the rail early shortly after the home turn, and with a sharp burst of speed he dashed to the lead with 200 metres to run.

Watch This Space (NZ) (Elusive City {USA}) and Yearn (NZ) (Savabeel {NZ}) produced bold challenges out wide to provide a few nervous moments, but Endless Drama held them at bay by a neck.

“It was a superb ride by Leith,” Pike said. “I said to just try and hold him up for as long as he can. He sat and waited until the 200 metres to let him go, and he has got an electric turn of foot, as he showed at Hawke’s Bay (a last-start second in the Listed NZB Finance Sprint).

“We thought we had him back in form then, and we were quietly confident heading into today.”

Endless Drama was bred by Knocktoran Stud & Bluehorse Breeding Ltd, and he was bought for £45,000 as a weanling at the 2012 Tattersalls December Foals Sale in Newmarket.

Endless Drama

Raced by major global player Qatar Bloodstock, Endless Drama began his career in the stable of Ger Lyons. He won by five lengths on debut, then placed in the Listed Leopardstown 2000 Guineas Trial, the Listed Tetrarch S., the G1 Irish 2000 Guineas and the G1 Lockinge S.

Joining the Waller stable in 2016, he placed behind his champion stablemate Winx (Street Cry {IRE}) in the G2 Apollo S. in 2017 and won the same race a year later. Endless Drama joined Pike’s stable after finishing outside the placings on his New Zealand debut in the G1 Haunui Farm WFA Classic in February.

“Qatar Bloodstock are a fantastic outfit who race horses all around the world, and it’s great to have one of their horses racing in New Zealand,” Pike said.

“I trained one for them a few years back, and the opportunity to train this horse arose when Chris Waller suggested he might be better suited staying here after he raced at Otaki earlier in the year.

“He’s an older horse now and the change of environment seems to have done him a world of good. Chris is a good mate of mine, and it’s nice to get one up on him by improving one of his horses! That doesn’t happen often.”

Trainer Tony Pike

Cambridge trainers ran riot through the Ellerslie programme. In addition to Pike’s Easter Handicap heroics, Stephen Marsh trained three winners, while Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman secured an Ellerslie black-type double to sit alongside their G3 Cellarbrations Frank Packer Plate win in Sydney with The Chosen One (NZ) (Savabeel {NZ}).

Baker and Forsman began their march in the Listed Buffalo & Co Champagne S., where promising two-year-old colt Quick Thinker (So You Think {NZ}) won by three-quarters of a length.

A second placegetter in his only previous start, the colt did plenty of work out wide in the early part of the race, but he ran the 1600 metres out too strongly for his eight rivals.

“He’s bred to be a staying horse and we were confident he would go well today at the mile,” Baker said. “He might be a middle-distance horse in the spring, where we might get him to Melbourne or something like that.”

Quick Thinker carries the distinctive navy and gold striped colours of OTI Racing. He was a $100,000 purchase at the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale. It was the second consecutive Champagne S. for Baker and Forsman, who won it 12 months ago with Rubira (Lope de Vega {IRE}).

The second leg of their double was the G2 Valachi Downs Championship S., in which the blue-blooded Lord Arthur (Camelot {GB}) stormed home out wide for a highly impressive victory. Lord Arthur is a half-brother to three other stakes winners including the former Baker-Forsman star Bonneval (NZ) (Makfi {GB}), who won the G1 Australian Oaks, New Zealand Oaks and Underwood Stakes and was a two-time New Zealand Horse of the Year.

Lord Arthur was bred by Peter Newsom, who races the gelding in partnership with Tony Wales and Mac Whitehouse. He was offered at Karaka as a yearling but was passed in.

“That was very impressive,” Baker said. “He’s a half-brother to Bonneval, but he’s been a bit immature, a bit weak. He’s just started to put things together in the last month.

Bonneval winning the 2017 G1 ATC Oaks

“I gave him a stayer’s show today with plenty of pace on, and he showed good acceleration. There’s a possibility he could go to Brisbane from here.”

Lord Arthur is the first southern hemisphere stakes winner for the English and Irish Derby winner Camelot, who shuttled to Coolmore Australia in 2014.