Chenille provides tonic for Wayne Pike

Chenille (Leith Innes) striding to a strong win in today's Auckland Cup.

Chenille (Leith Innes) striding to a strong win in today’s Gr.1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup.

Winning the Auckland Cup is nothing new for Tony Pike, but today’s win in the 3200-metre Ellerslie feature will always be special for the Cambridge trainer and his family.

Pike saddled up Rock Diva to win the race two years ago in the hands of Mark Du Plessis and today he recorded an emotional win with Chenille, a Pentire mare he bred in partnership with his wife, Kirsten, and parents Wayne and Vicki Pike.

Missing from the presentation today were Wayne and Vicki Pike who both watched the televised coverage of the Ellerslie meeting from Hamilton’s Braemar Hospital, where Wayne is recovering after undergoing cancer surgery last Monday.

The chain of events which saw the Auckland Cup meeting being canned last Saturday because of the wet weather and transferred to today played into the hands of Chenille.

“Wayne had been all set to come to the races on Saturday and then the first thing he said when they postponed was that he might still be able to get out of his hospital bed and be here today,” Tony Pike told The Informant.

“There was no chance of that. It was a big operation and he only got out of ICU yesterday, but this is great. It will have done him a power of good.”

Pike was quick to acknowledge the postponement had been a blessing for Chenille.

“When the rain started on Friday we thought we had done our chips,” he said.

“The postponement to today put us back in the game and the weather played its part to give us the track she needed.”

Chenille had looked on target for the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup when winning the lead-up, the Nathans Memorial, in convincing fashion. It was a performance which convinced Leith Innes to stick with the five-year-old, even though she had only 53.5kg.

The postponement saw Innes have to maintain his wasting for a further five days, but it was all worthwhile.

Innes settled Chenille back in the field and had her up widest rounding the home turn. She hit the front early in the home straight and held on gamely to score by three-quarters of a length from El Pistola.

“It’s great for Wayne,” said Innes. “I could just hear him ‘what are you doing going too soon’ but I have so much faith in this mare. She’s a class horse.”

For Innes, it was the 28th Group One win of his career and his first in the Auckland Cup.

“Leith (Innes) rode her perfectly and he got her to drop her head down the back and she was bolting on the corner,” said Pike.

“She looked a good thing on the turn. She probably got to the front too soon, but she’s a very good staying mare.”

Chenille is raced by the Pikes in partnership with long-time friends, Graeme and Jackie Capes, and became the 13th Group One winner for Rich Hill Stud sire Pentire.

Chenille has now won a third of her 27 starts and almost $550,000 in stakes, but Pike is uncertain on the next step.

“She’s entered in the Sydney Cup, but whether we head that way or not we’ll wait and see,” he said.