Decision on Kelly O’Reilly tomorrow

Kelly O'Reilly (inner) rallying to beat Moochi Me at Gr. 2 level last start.

Kelly O’Reilly (inner) rallying to beat Moochi Me at Gr. 2 level last start. (Photo: NZ Racing Desk).


Finding a suitable rider for the Gr. 2 $100,000 Cal Isuzu Stakes at Te Rapa on Saturday is one of the reasons Cambridge trainer Tony Pike is sitting on the fence with his smart mare Kelly O’Reilly.

Pike has also entered Kelly O’Reilly for the Listed $50,000 Shaw’s Wire Ropes Sprint (1400m) and will leave a decision until tomorrow over the exact assignment for the last-start winner of the Gr. 2 NRM Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes at Avondale.

Leith Innes has been Kelly O’Reilly’s regular rider, but, through his contract with owner Brendon Lindsay, he is committed to the Roger James-trained Zonza in the Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m).

“Obviously the fillies and mares’ race (Cal Isuzu Stakes) is the main preference but it is the stronger race and we need to find a suitable rider for her,” said Pike. “However, she does get in beautifully at the weights in the sprint and that does make it a little bit more tempting.

“With Spin Doctor in the field on the topweight of 59 kilos, she gets in with just 53 and Leith has indicated he would be prepared to try and make the weight.

“But, at this stage, I’m undecided which way to go with her. I’ll work it out tomorrow.”

Owned and bred by Pike’s parents, Vicky and Wayne Pike, Kelly O’Reilly has been a consistent performer with seven wins and 10 placings from 23 starts.

“I gave her three or four days off after her win and she worked really good this morning,” said Pike. “She’s ready for Saturday.”

Pike’s other runners at Te Rapa include Best Command in the Lowe Schollum & Jones Premier (1200m) and Rock Diva in the Pathways Immigration Specialists Premier (1600m).

“Best Command won well at the trials last week and Shaun McKay will ride her so she will get in with just 53 kilos,” said Pike. “Shaun has won on her before and rides her well. She has been served by O’Reilly.”

Rock Diva, a Group Three winner and third placegetter in the Gr. 1 Wellfield NZ Oaks last term, finished unplaced fresh-up at Avondale last month, but Pike is overlooking that effort.

“It was a funny run race at Avondale and she needed it,” said Pike. “This will be another fitness run for her. She didn’t show a lot until she got up to 2000 metres last season.”

Best Command and Rock Diva are being set for Ellerslie on Boxing Day with the latter’s mission being a Rating 85 2100 metres.

Pike is planning to have six starters at that Ellerslie meeting with Allez Eagle and Sancerre, who provided a quinella on that course last weekend, set for a Rating 85 1400 and a Rating 75 1400 respectively. Polish will start in a Rating 65 1600 and the sprinter Shelford will contest the Listed Hallmark Stud Newmarket Handicap.