Cambridge trainer Tony Pike believes an extended break has been the key to the development of Azamour four-year-old Sacred Day, who ran out an impressive winner of the Rating 65 Cardinal Logistics (1600m) at Ellerslie on Thursday night.
Ridden by apprentice Wiremu Pinn, Sacred Day came from last to storm past his rivals, despite some interference on the home-turn.
“We’ve always had a massive opinion of the horse,” Pike said.
“He was on a very short run-up trying to get to the New Zealand Derby as a three-year-old, which was never going to happen, it all came up too quickly for him.
“He actually had a tiny chip in his fetlock which we had to take out. Hence he had a long break between runs. In hindsight that was probably the best thing for him.
“He was still quite physically and mentally immature as a three-year-old, but he's just come back a lot stronger and a lot more mentally mature this time in.”
Pike said that although Sacred Day was only progressing through the grades, he believes there is a big-race win in the gelding within the next six months.
A winner of two of his seven starts and placed on a further four occasions, Sacred Day holds nominations for the Dunstan Feeds 1500 series.
“We'll see how he pulls up,” Pike said. “It’s probably a quick enough back up, 13 days, so we'll make that decision next week, whether he goes to the Dunstan 1500 or wait and go to the Benchmark 72 mile at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.”
Pike said the Raffles Racing-owned galloper would also have options over ground in the future.
“He's really relaxed in his races now, just by riding him quietly,” he said.
“We always thought he'd get up over 2000m the way he races, so I don't think that will be a problem.”
With a strong crowd in attendance at Ellerslie for a quick-fire six-race twilight meeting and some quality international riders competing as part of the Barfoot & Thompson Jockeys’ World Cup, Pike was a fan of the innovative concept but would prefer to see the rail closer to the true position than the 9.5 metres on Thursday night.
“I think it’s fantastic,” he said. “I think the idea behind it is great but we just need to get the right races and the right fields.
“Ellerslie’s probably hard enough to ride for the first time, let alone when the rail is out that far.”
Meanwhile, Pike has eight runners entered between meetings at Te Rapa and Ellerslie this weekend including Heavenly Emperor in the Gr.3 Barfoot & Thompson Three Year Old Salver (2100m) at the latter venue on Sunday.
“We've always thought he had the makings of a really nice staying three-year-old,” he said.
“All his runs have been at Te Rapa, and two of his runs when he has trailed there, he's really resented the kick-back.
“So up to Ellerslie and on a better track surface I think he's not without a chance, even though he is still a maiden.”
Pike nominated Poppy Star in the last race at Ellerslie as his best for the weekend. – NZ Racing Desk