Cambridge trainer Tony Pike left Ellerslie racecourse on Saturday evening flush with the success of producing a winning treble on the day along with the anticipation of potentially snagging an even bigger prize in two weeks’ time.
Rejuvenated galloper Ever Loyal kick-started the winning roll for Pike with an effortless victory in an open 1200m contest before talented three-year-old Surely Sacred cemented his favouritism for the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) on March 2 with a comprehensive win in the Gr.2 Schweppes Avondale Guineas (2100m).
Pike completed a top day at the office with promising stayer Special Light making it back-to-back victories with a win over 2100m in rating 65 company.
Pike was delighted with how the day had panned out after experiencing a frustrating run in recent weeks.
“It was a really good day at the office, as to be fair, it had been a frustrating couple of weeks with a lot of very narrow seconds in some nice races,” Pike said.
“He (Surely Sacred) was strong yesterday as the Avondale Guineas is the best form-guide into the Derby, so it was good to see him run out a strong 2100m.
“Vinnie (Colgan, jockey) set him alight pretty early and he didn’t have anything to cart him into the race, so he has done a good job to hang on and win.
“I don’t think the 2400m, with his pedigree, should be a problem and as three-year-olds they can get away with it a little better than they do as older horses.
He’s out in the paddock this (Sunday) morning and is nice and bright. He’s had a perfect preparation into the Derby and now he’s had that run over a middle-distance trip it’s really just a matter of keeping him in one piece for the next fortnight.”
Surely Sacred is the son of five race winner Not Sure and is closely related to Pike’s Gr.1 Queensland Oaks (2400m) winner Provocative. Bookmakers have installed Surely Sacred as the clear $3 favourite in their Fixed Odds market for the New Zealand Derby, ahead of Saturday’s third-placed finisher Vernanme ($8).
Pike was also thrilled with the winning performance of Ever Loyal who finished runner-up in the Gr.3 Concorde Handicap (1200m) last start when having his first run following an injury-enforced 12-month layoff.
“He’s a horse that has always had immense ability,” he said.
“He probably struggled to get 1600m last year as a three-year-old, but it’s great to have him back.
“We were pretty confident heading into the Concorde, and he’s gone an absolute slasher.
“He was expected to win (on Saturday) and it’s good that he’s done it and done it well.”
Pike is now contemplating an Australian campaign with the son of Sebring, who finished third in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) last season.
“He is owned by Rob Ferguson, who is based in Sydney, and we are probably running out of options with him here in New Zealand,” he said.
“There are some really nice undercard options for him over the next month in Sydney so it is likely he will head over there where his first start will be in the Liverpool City Cup (Gr.3 1300m) on March 2.
“A long-term plan is to get his rating high enough and possibly sneak into the Stradbroke on a light weight.”
The Gr.1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) is scheduled for Eagle Farm in Brisbane on June 8. – NZ Racing Desk