Pike can also win outside stable

Pike Tony TJHIt’s already been an Auckland Cup carnival to savour for Tony Pike and with Gr. 1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup favourite Sacred Master yet to come, the week might be about to get even better for the Cambridge trainer. 

However, the horse commanding most of Pike’s attention in trackwork today hailed from a rival stable – and is not even running in the Auckland Cup.

Pike’s focus was on the Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young-trained two-year-old Caorunn, who tackles the Gr.1 Sistema Diamond Stakes (1200m) and as a son of Haunui Farm stallion Showcasing could snare a $100,000 bonus offered by the Auckland stud farm if he wins – $30,000 of which goes to the breeders and in his case they are Pike (pictured) and his parents, Wayne and Vicki.

There was plenty of good-hearted banter between Pike and Busuttin after the gallop, too.

“I just said to Trent I hope my horse is right and everything is all on track for the weekend,” said Pike. “I just watched his final gallop to make sure it all went well and I’m looking forward to the $30,000 pay cheque if he can get up for us.”

Pike has plenty to be upbeat about.

Last weekend he produced Rangipo to win the Gr. 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) with stablemate Raghu running a gallant third, while his dual Group One winner Sacred Star bounced back to top form with a clinical win in the Gr. 3 Darley Plate (1200m).

Now Sacred Master will start a warm favourite for the Auckland Cup after a stellar performance to claim the main leadup race, the Gr. 2 Avondale Cup (2400m) a fortnight ago, to give Pike a great chance to claim two of the four Group One prizes on offer for the week.

“Here’s hoping,” he said. “It’s been a fantastic carnival for us so far and we’re going into Saturday pretty confident he’s going to run a big race.

“I can’t fault his condition. He galloped brilliantly here on Tuesday morning. He’s just heading the right way. He’s obviously very progressive.”

Pike produced Rock Diva to win last year’s Auckland Cup for similar connections carrying the 52kg minimum, though that race was run under handicap conditions and this year the race has changed to set-weights and penalties that sees Sacred Master carrying 55kg.

“The change in the weight scale is against him,” said Pike. “He’s got to carry 55 and there’s a big turnaround against horses like Benzini [who Sacred Master meets 6.5kg worse off]. But he’s a good horse.

“He’s come through the grades very well and it’s probably not the strongest Auckland Cup we’ve ever seen. And he’s peaking at the right time. Rock Diva’s best [leadup] run was the Avondale Cup and arguably that’s his best run as well.

“He’s a very laid-back horse. He switches off nicely in the run and he’s got a very good turn of foot as well and proved that in the Avondale Cup.

“It’s been a big ask of him. He was a maiden at the start of the season and now he’s the Auckland Cup favourite. I’d expect him to go close but whether it’s a year too soon, we’ll find out on Saturday.”

– NZ Racing Desk