HE KEPT us waiting and, of course, it was worth every uncomfortable moment. The ground was wet, the hour was early, the pack was hungry and the skies were black and threatening. And then he arrived.
Pierro doesn't quite shimmer as Black Caviar does when she moves, but the colt certainly demands your attention. As he walked out of the Gai Waterhouse barn towards the waiting media at Flemington yesterday morning, his eyes were alert, his ears were pricked and his head held high. He'd seen the likes of these people before - in fact many times over in an unbeaten eight-race career - and he wasn't apprehensive or scared. He was ready.
Pierro posed for the cameras on cue. He shifted purposefully from side to side to allow a full range of shots and then gazed knowingly across the famous racecourse, where, strangely, he is unlikely to race this spring. His targets are tomorrow's $1 million Caulfield Guineas and then the $3 million Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, but it has been at Flemington where he has most recently proven his greatness.
The unbeaten juvenile triple crown winner sizzled at Flemington on Tuesday in a track gallop that proved to all who saw it that this two-year-old star can and has made the rocky transition from champion of his juvenile season to champion of his classic year. He has not gone backwards as can happen with interstate colts on their first trip away. He is instead thriving.
His trainer, Gai Waterhouse, has compared Pierro to her late father T. J. Smith's great 1984 colt Red Anchor as he took the same path through the spring to the Cox Plate as a three-year-old. But yesterday she ventured a little further, mentioning two of her father's most famous horses, Tulloch and Gunsynd, when assessing her champion colt.
Tulloch she used as an example of a dominant horse. A seven-time winner as a two-year-old and a winner of his first 10 starts as a three-year-old, Tulloch is the benchmark for middle distance and staying horses in the post-Phar Lap era. Tomorrow, Pierro races as the shortest-priced favourite since Tulloch won the Caulfield Guineas in 1957.
''He might be the best horse you've seen in a long time,'' Waterhouse warned of Pierro. ''He's starting to get a record like Tulloch. You go back and look through the record books, what horse has done this at present? He's only had eight starts, he's only a baby. He's a really, really good horse.''
Waterhouse used the Gunsynd comparison to highlight the colt's personality. The popular grey Gunsynd famously played up to the crowd. Often he would stop at the entrance to the track on race day and wait for the crowd to applaud before he moved off. What we saw of Pierro yesterday was a horse who was warm and comfortable in his own skin.
The trainer insisted the Caulfield track - a graveyard for many an interstate horse including another of Smith's champions, Kingston Town - will present no problem for her colt.
''I'm backing that he'll handle it,'' Waterhouse said. ''He handled the Valley, which I think is probably trickier than Caulfield. It's such a tight dish of a course and he handled that with aplomb the other night.''
Pierro's marking on his generous shoulder is a gentle reminder as to the luck of horse racing. Bred by Sheikh Mohammed, Pierro sports the Darley stamp on his off-side shoulder. Sold as a weanling by the global breeding and racing giant for $115,000, Pierro is estimated to be worth $24 million.