Tony Pike will be honouring a promise to Golden Slipper-winning jockey Damian Lane at Randwick on Saturday.
Lane added the Gr.1 Golden Slipper (1200m) to his CV when successful on Kiamichi last month and will be out to win at the top level for Pike when the Cambridge trainer legs him aboard Surely Sacred in the Gr.1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick on Saturday.
“I owe Damian a Derby ride,’’ Pike said. ‘’He rode Sacred Elixir for me in Melbourne a few years ago and won a couple on him, but he didn’t get to ride him in the Victoria Derby (Gr.1, 2500m) as we had Zac Purton booked for that.
“I told him I’d give him a Derby ride one day and he’ll have his chance on Surely Sacred on Saturday. I’m looking forward to it.’’
Pike secured Lane’s services for Surely Sacred (who races in the same Raffles Racing colours as Sacred Elixir) when the Rock ‘N’ Pop three-year-old made his Australian debut in the Gr.1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) last start.
Surely Sacred drew wide when he finished fourth, five and a half lengths behind the boom three-year-old The Autumn Sun, on a rain-sodden Rosehill track and Pike is hoping for a better draw for the Derby.
“He had to make a long-sustained run and the way the track was playing he almost got there too soon,’’ Pike said. ‘’He was off the bridle the last bit and just ground away.
‘’It’s been the same in his last three runs. He’s had to make long sustained runs. But if he gets a good draw and can race a bit handier, he can be held up for the last crack at them. He sprints very quickly.’’
Surely Sacred showed that sprint when he flashed home from last to win the Gr.2 Auckland Guineas (1600m) at Ellerslie in just his third start before an unlucky fifth in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m).
He then took off before the home turn and was in front soon after straightening when winning the Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Ellerslie and had to make a long sustained run from the back when fifth in the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m), the Ellerslie performance which secured his trip to Sydney.
Pike is happy with Surely Sacred’s progress since the Rosehill Guineas and is confident he will be right in the firing line over the final stages of Saturday’s Australian Derby.
‘’He had a quiet hit-out on Saturday morning and will gallop on the course proper on Tuesday,’’ Pike said.
‘’Hopefully there’s not too much more rain in Sydney, but Randwick does hold up better than Rosehill and it is the first day of the carnival.”
Lane will be chasing his second Australian Derby win and his first was also on a Cambridge horse. He rode Jon Snow to victory in the feature two years ago for trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman.
Whatever the outcome on Saturday, Surely Sacred will be heading for the spelling paddock and be prepared for a spring campaign.
‘’He won’t be going on to Queensland for the Derby there,’’ Pike said. ‘’He’ll have run in two Derbys and that’s enough.’’
Pike is currently finalising his team for the Queensland Winter Carnival and it will include Bostonian and Ever Loyal, who are both being aimed at the Gr.1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm on June 8.
‘I’m just waiting on the final details of the flights over there,’’ Pike said. ‘’They’ll probably kick off a week after arriving. They’ll have a couple of runs in handicaps, not weight-for-age races, as a lead into the Stradbroke.’’
Bostonian was unbeaten in three Queensland starts last year, culminating in his victory in the Gr.3 Sunshine Coast Guineas (1600m), and his five starts this campaign include a win in the Listed Counties Bowl (1100m) and a second to Melody Belle in the Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa before his last-start fifth in the Gr.1 Haunui Farm WFA Group One Classic (1600m) at Otaki.
‘’He’s had a nice break since Otaki and looks good,’’ Pike said.
Ever Loyal has also been freshened since his last run, in the Gr. 3 Liverpool Cup (1300m) at Randwick on March 2.
‘’He had no luck in Sydney,’’ Pike said. ‘’He was caught three-wide and I knew he had no show after 200m.’’
Before his sole Sydney mission, Ever Loyal has been runner-up to Ardrossan in the Gr.3 Concorde Handicap (1200m) and won over 1200m, both at Ellerslie. - NZ Racing Desk