No raffle when selecting Pike

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Tony Pike has well and truly earned the confidence of influential owner Dato Yap Kim San. 

The Cambridge trainer has won several feature races for the Raffles Racing proprietor, among them Sacred Falls’ Gr.1 2000 Guineas at Riccarton, Sacred Star’s Gr.1 Telegraph and Gr.1 NRM Sprint double, Sacred Master’s Gr.2 Avondale Gold Cup and Sacred Elixir’s Gr.1 JJ Atkins.

It will be through Sacred Elixir that Pike attempts to add to that record when he produces the Graham De Gruchy-bred Pour Moi three-year-old as favourite for tomorrow’s Gr.1 A$1.5 million Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington.

Sacred Falls, Sacred Star and Sacred Master were all transferred to champion Sydney trainer Chris Waller after varying periods with Pike at Cambridge. Despite Sacred Elixir displaying obvious talent in his two-year-old starts in New Zealand, Dato Yap elected to put his faith in Pike, not only for the gelding’s Brisbane winter campaign at two, but also for his spring campaign as a three-year-old in Melbourne.

“It’s more been about the races we’ve been looking forward to in the past,” said Dato Yap’s racing manager Bruce Sherwin.

“Sacred Master was being aimed towards the Metropolitan in Sydney and that’s why he joined Chris. With Tony focusing on Melbourne and New Zealand, it was going to be tough to spread his resources in three places. It’s just been tailored towards the target races.

“But Tony Pike, on his success recently, it would be a big call to take a horse away from him.”

Pike, who landed his first Derby win with Rangipo in this year’s New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie, was rapt that the Raffles Racing team had the confidence in him to guide Sacred Elixir’s Victoria Derby campaign.

“Raffles have been loyal owners and if the opportunity was there for me to take a horse through to Australia, then I’m more than happy to do that,” he said.

“There’s more prize money in Australia and we’ve got great systems and staff at home. We’ve got a really good crew of staff to keep things ticking over while I’m away in Australia and [parents] Wayne and Vicki are always there to help out too.”

Wayne and Vicki Pike flew to Melbourne on Wednesday night to support their son ahead of what would rate as the highlight of his already successful training career.

“It’s a rare occurrence to have a horse favourite for the Victoria Derby and hopefully win, lose or draw, we can enjoy this moment for what it is,” said Pike.

“At this stage I am approaching it as just another race but I’ll probably get a bit more toey on Saturday morning.

“It’s never easy getting a three-year-old ready for any Derby. You’ve got to have the horse and then have everything go right through all the training and races.

“But we’re here and I couldn’t be any happier with his condition. Barring bad luck, he’ll run some sort of race.”

Sacred Elixir completed his preparation with a 1600-metre gallop on the steeple grass at Flemington yesterday with suspended jockey Damien Oliver happy to ride the trackwork, in the absence of Hong Kong-based Zac Purton, who takes the mount tomorrow.

“He worked brilliantly. His coat has come through and I really couldn’t be any happier with his disposition,” said Pike.

– NZ Racing Desk