The 3yo Magic Millions Guineas winner is
The 3yo Magic Millions Guineas winner is "Pierata" ridden by Jockey Corey Brown at Magic Millions Race day on the Gold Coast. Pics Adam Head

Pierata pushes Hickman into spotlight

TRY as he might, Greg Hickman can't avoid the hype.

It has become impossible to ignore as everyone, it seems, has an opinion about his horse.

The subject is Pierata, the boom three-year-old who faces his moment of truth against quality opposition in the Group 2 $400,000 Hobartville Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.

Pierata could be racing's next big thing - if he can turn potential into performance.

Hickman has been training long enough to realise he must keep all the talk about the promising Pierata in perspective.

"It can be hard to keep a lid on it,'' Hickman said. "I've learned over the years you can't get ahead of yourself in this game because it can be such a hard fall.''

 

Greg Hickman says Pierata has X-factor, but the trainer admits the three-year-old will face a solid test in the Hobartville Stakes on Saturday. Picture: Grant Peters, Trackside Photography
Greg Hickman says Pierata has X-factor, but the trainer admits the three-year-old will face a solid test in the Hobartville Stakes on Saturday. Picture: Grant Peters, Trackside Photography

But Hickman is prepared to concede there is something about Pierata. The colt has that X-factor, a combination of pedigree, conformation and racetrack ability.

Pierata has already won four of his eight starts - including the Vo Rogue Plate and Magic Millions 3YO Guineas at his most recent runs, earning nearly $2 million in prizemoney.

"People could be right in what they are saying about this colt because, seriously, I don't know how good he can be,'' Hickman said.

"Pierata has always had this presence about him, too. He doesn't do anything wrong, nothing bothers him, he has the greatest nature. He likes working, he eats everything, he does his job and he is getting stronger every day.''

This is the horse Hickman has been waiting for his whole career. The three-year-old could be life-changing for the Warwick Farm horseman.

"It's all about perception in our game,'' Hickman said. "You might drive the right car but it is on lease, live in the nice house but the bank owns it. I've been doing this on a shoestring budget. I don't have the luxury of a big stud behind me.

Pierata impressed in the Magic Millions Guineas.
Pierata impressed in the Magic Millions Guineas. NOEL PASCOE/RACING QUEENSLAND

"The competition in Sydney is so fierce but the only difference between us (trainers) is the 'cattle' in the stable.''

Hickman has trained many good horses over the years - including Sportsman, Sir Dex, Royal Purler, Mirjulisa Lass, Taxmeifyoucan and Private Secretary, most of them purchased for bargain-basement sums.

Sportsman was an $8000 yearling who won nearly $800,000, Sir Dex cost just $12,000 and won more than $200,000, Mirjulisa Lass was passed in as a yearling and then leased before winning a Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes.

Hickman has some loyal stable clients but none with the finances to buy at the top end of the yearling market. The trainer often buys "on spec" and then sells shares to clients.

"I once bought a horse for $200,000 for a very wealthy client,'' Hickman said. "I was certain he would take most of the horse but he only took 10 per cent.''

So what did Hickman do?

Greg Hickman has had a bit of luck with bargain buys, including Royal Pearler and Sportsman. Picture: Mark Evans
Greg Hickman has had a bit of luck with bargain buys, including Royal Pearler and Sportsman. Picture: Mark Evans

"I collapsed," he said. "I ended up being caught with half of it but he turned out to be a nice horse and we won a few races with him."

Pierata was different. He is a well-bred colt by former champion Pierro out of the top racemare November Flight and made a real impression on Hickman at the 2016 Magic Millions Yearling Sale.

"He just took my eye, plus the little white patch on the head gets me in most of the time,'' he said. "But then I looked at his (pedigree) page, he is a half-brother to Ashokan which we ran against with Taxmeifyoucan in races like the Gosford Guineas.

"They paid $800,000 for Ashokan so I stuck my neck out and decided to buy this colt. We were lucky to get him for $160,000. It's still a lot of money but if you don't give yourself a chance by buying a ticket in the lottery you can't win, can you?"

Pierata was bought for $160,000 and has earned almost $2m in prizemoney.
Pierata was bought for $160,000 and has earned almost $2m in prizemoney.

Hickman wasn't left carrying the financial burden this time, syndicating the colt to a wide group of stable clients.

"I have some great people as owners in our stable and some of them are in Pierata,'' Hickman said.

One of Pierata's part-owners, Bill Clegg, might be the trainer's lucky charm.

"I sold him a share in Private Secretary,'' Hickman said. "Then when she went to the paddock for 12 months, I put him into Braces. Then I sold him another share in a maiden that should have won at Queanbeyan.

"The fourth horse I have put him in is Pierata. So of the four horses he has had with me, Braces has won five races, Private Secretary won over $1 million and Pierata has won nearly $2 million.''

Pierata hasn't raced since his brilliant Magic Millions 3YO Guineas win on January 13, but he did stretch out impressively when a close second in a Randwick trial last week.

"He's fit and well and I thought he trialled nicely the other day, he looked like a seasoned horse,'' Hickman said.

"A couple of those he raced against over summer in Brisbane haven't come back and done quite what you hoped they would do, but all I can tell you is this colt has done everything well since the Magic Millions.

"We are testing the water (Saturday). Kementari and Pierata have a similar racing pattern so I hope there is enough pace on.

Corey Brown has a big opinion of Pierata. Picture: Adam Head
Corey Brown has a big opinion of Pierata. Picture: Adam Head

"I keep saying he is probably still six months behind (being fully developed and mature) but they are only three-year-olds once and this is their only chance to have a crack at these races.''

Hickman has also been encouraged by the faith champion jockey Corey Brown has in Pierata.

Brown committed to Pierata in all four Queensland races in the summer well before the colt's star soared into the stratosphere.

"Corey stuck his neck out early and said he wanted to stay with Pierata,'' the trainer said. "He knows this colt inside out, knows the horse's adaptability and when he presses the button the response is there.

"I think he has the ability to do anything and, all going well in the Hobartville, we will target the Randwick Guineas.

"He has been nominated for the Doncaster Mile, too, but this is new ground for me. I will let the colt tell me what to do but we can dream a little bit.

"You have to keep battling away in this game and hope it all turns around one day.''

It might be turning Hickman's way now.



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