Pike picks up a treble

Suggestions (Vinnie Colgan) beating Money Trail (nearest camera) to give Cambridge the quinella in the Dunstan Feeds Rising Stars Championship Qualifier 1200 at Ellerslie yesterday.

Suggestions (Vinnie Colgan) beating Money Trail (nearest camera) to give Cambridge the quinella in the Dunstan Feeds Rising Stars Championship Qualifier 1200 at Ellerslie yesterday.

Three winners and a few placings was only part of the story of the weekend’s racing for Cambridge trainer Tony Pike.

From 10 starters over the weekend, Pike picked up wins with Skyweka (Te Rapa last Saturday) and Sacred Shot and Suggestions (both at Ellerslie yesterday), as well as placings which included a second at Te Rapa with Parker’s Piece, thirds with Sin To Win (Te Rapa) and Hollywood Lass (Ellerslie) and a fourth with Sacred Empire.

He also landed a fifth with recent stable addition Jiayuguan in the Gr.3 Skycity Hamilton Waikato Cup, but it was the run of stablemate Chenille, the second favourite in the same race, which left Pike puzzled.

Pike was expecting big efforts from both Jiayuguan and Chenille after their runs for third and fifth in the Counties Cup and, though Jiayuguan battled away solidly for fifth to Lizzie L’Amour last Saturday, Chenille, a winner two starts earlier at Ellerslie, disappointed when beating just two home in the 10-horse field, finishing over seven lengths from the winner.

“I’m not quite sure what to make of Chenille’s run,” he said. “She got a decent buffering in the straight the first time around and lost a plate, but she never really fired which was disappointing as I was confident of a big run.

“We’ll have her checked out thoroughly, but if everything is okay we will press on to the City Of Auckland Cup on New Year’s Day.”

Chenille was one of the most progressive stayers last season and ended that campaign with an easy win in the Listed Hawke’s Bay Cup last April. As well as the City Of Auckland Cup, she holds nominations for Wallaceville Estate Wellington Cup next month and the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup on March 11.

Sacred Empire also failed to live up to expectations for the stable when a beaten favourite at Te Rapa after being given his chance by rider Vinnie Colgan, but will press on to the final of the Dunstan Feeds Stayers Championship at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.

Pike was pleased with the stable’s other Te Rapa contestants, particularly Skyweka, who looked smart when taking the Lodge Real Estate Premier 1600.

Skyweka (Danielle Johnson) shaping up as a Rich Hill Mile candidate with a strong win at Te Rapa last Saturday.

Skyweka (Danielle Johnson) beating fellow Cambridge galloper Stradivarius at Te Rapa last Saturday. It was an all Cambridge finish with the first five home being from the centre.

“She’s a quality mare and up to black-type company,” said Pike, who had been concerned pre-race the pattern of the day at that stage suiting on-pace runners would be against her.

She was settled midfield on the inner by Danielle Johnson and after being worked out into the clear she had a lot of work to do to catch the pacemaker Stradivarius, but knuckled down to her task admirably to win by a half-length.

Pike now hopes to slip into the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day with Skyweka, who has won five of her 12 starts.

Sacred Shot and Suggestions looked good for the Pike stable when winning the first and third races at Ellerslie yesterday.

Ridden by Leith Innes, Sacred Shot lived up to his favouritism when working across from his wide draw to settle in the one-one and challenge with 200 metres to run. He drew clear over the final stages to win by a length and a quarter to top his two placings with a deserved maiden win in his third start.

“He’s a really progressive horse,” said Pike. “He was off the scene for 12 months with injury but he’s come back great this prep and he’s only going to improve with racing, too. He’s pretty inexperienced and still the penny hasn’t dropped.

“I think he’s a horse who will go through the grades.”

Suggestions also looks capable of shaping up to far better company, judging by her win in the Dunstan Feeds Rising Stars Championship Qualifier 1200.

After being settled back by Vinnie Colgan, she was improved near the 600 metres and came with a strong finish to outgun another Cambridge runner, the Brendon Hawtin-trained Money Trail, and win by a neck.

“The race panned out nicely for her,” said Pike. “They went very hard up front and Vinnie gave her a nice trip. She looked beaten at the 200, but she fought back strongly.”

A maiden winner on a heavy10 track at Avondale last July, Suggestions was second-up yesterday after a fifth behind the Chris Wood-trained Dark Universe at Te Rapa.

“Her fresh-up run was very good, she just blew out that day,” said Pike. ”I think she got beaten by a pretty good horse, Dark Universe.

“It would be nice to get another win or two out of her this preparation.”