Weather watch for Sacred Star

Sacred Star and Vinnie Colgan returning to scale after winning the 2015 Gr. 1 NRM Sprint at Te Rapa. The pair will combine again this weekend. (Photo: Wally O’Hearn).

Cambridge trainer Tony Pike has been keeping a weather watch on Hamilton as his top sprinter Sacred Star prepares for another tilt at Te Rapa’s major sprint.

Already this year wet weather has played havoc with Sacred Star, causing him to be a late withdrawal from the Gr.1 Sistema Railway on New Year’s Day, and Pike doesn’t want to see a repeat tomorrow.

Sacred Star will be lining up in the Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint (formerly the NRM Sprint) for the fourth time and only continuous heavy rain will prevent him from competing.

“The forecast is for some rain, but I’ll run him up to a Dead five or six,” said Pike. “If it rains heavily and it’s a genuine slow he won’t run.

“It’s a bit different at Te Rapa than Ellerslie with the way it drains so hopefully it will be all right for him.”

Pike had his heart set on tackling the Gr.1 Sistema Railway with Sacred Star.

“That’s the one we set him for and I thought he’d be a good chance,” Pike said.” He had trialled up well and was working well, but the rain spoilt it.”

Instead Pike had to wait until the Gr.1 J.R. & N. Berkett Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham three weeks ago and an outside draw of 16 made it too tough for Sacred Star, who wound up 12th, just over three and three-quarter lengths from the upset winner, Enzo’s Lad.

“The wide gate and slow tempo beat him in the end,” Pike said. “He hadn’t raced for nearly 16 months and the old boy is not as good as he was.”

Back in 2015, Sacred Star was dominant when winning the Telegraph, then he backed up and also won the Gr.1 NRM Sprint, in which he had run second to Viadana the previous year.

He was back at Te Rapa again in February 2016 for his third tilt at the NRM Sprint and he finished fourth to Xtravagant before going on to win the Gr.3 Darley Plate (1200m) at Ellerslie.

The $100,000 Darley Plate, on March 3, is again on the agenda for Sacred Star this campaign, provided he acquits himself well this weekend.

“He’ll probably run in the Darley Plate and that will be the end of the road for him this season,” Pike said. “He’s past his use by date for Aussie, but if he’s racing well maybe he’ll be back racing here next season.”

Sacred Star is the winner of nine races and $783,564 in prizemoney, just on $80,000 more than stablemate Rangipo, who will contest Saturday’s other Group One, the $400,000 Herbie Dyke Stakes (wfa 2000m).

Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes candidate Rangipo, pictured in his last Te Rapa moment of glory bursting between stablemate Raghu (rails) and Get That Jive (outside) to win the 2016 Waikato Guineas.

Rangipo was at his peak in the summer of 2016, with a Group Two rampage in the Great Northern Guineas, Waikato Guineas and Avondale Guineas on his way to triumphing in the Gr.1 NZ Derby. But he has had more than his share of issues since then and has had to settle for just four placings in 10 starts within the last 23 months.

The first of those placings was a fresh-up third in last year’s Darley Plate behind Splurge and the other placings, all fourths, have been in his latest campaign.

He was a creditable fresh-up fourth to Volpe Veloce at Ellerslie on December 9, then finished under half a neck from winner Coldplay in the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile and fourth to Brighton over 1600 metres at Pukekohe a couple of weeks ago.

“I was really pleased with his last two runs,” Pike said. “At Counties he was caught wide and Leith (Innes) went back. He’s a funny horse when you do that. He switches off. His last 100 metres was quite good.

“His run in the Rich Hill was good. He was about a long head from the winner and he fought to the line.

“The 2000 metres should be perfect for him on Saturday. He’ll be ridden positively in the first three or four and he’s not without a chance. He’s well.”

Pike is also expecting good runs from his other two Te Rapa acceptors, Blue Lagoon and Skyweka.

Blue Lagoon won well over 2100 metres at Te Teko last start and will be attempting to keep her Gr.1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup hopes alive in Saturday’s Bupa NZ 2400.

“She took a couple of runs to come up and she’s flying now,” Pike said. “Te Teko fitted in well in her programme and she’s rock-hard fit and might sneak into the Auckland Cup. She’s a genuine stayer and will probably run again over 2200 at Ellerslie a week before the Cup.”

Meanwhile, Pike’s Wellington Cup winner, Magic Chai, is also on track for the Auckland Cup.

“He had a quiet fortnight after Trentham and his work has been outstanding,” Pike said.

“He’ll run in the 2400 metres (Westinghouse Nathan’s Memorial) at Ellerslie on Saturday week. It promises to be the strongest staying race and if he needs another run he can start again at Ellerslie a week before the Cup.”