The “real” Chenille on Auckland Cup trail

Leith Innes guiding Chenille to a solid win at Ellerslie tonight.

Leith Innes guiding Chenille to a solid win at Ellerslie tonight. Stablemate and runner-up Sacred Shot is closer to the camera with just his head showing.

Bring on the Gr.1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup was the feeling of Chenille’s connections after the talented stayer led home a Tony Pike-trained quinella at Ellerslie tonight.

Last year’s Hawke’s Bay Cup winner had won one of her six other runs this season – a 1600-metre event at Ellerslie last October – but hadn’t really lived up to her earlier promise. That was until tonight when she proved she was right on target for the Auckland Cup on March 11.

“It’s probably the first time we’ve had her spot on this season,” said Pike. “We’ve had a tough run this spring with her and a few little jarring up issues after the Waikato Cup, but I knew she was back on track after her last run.”

That lead-up run was at Ellerslie 15 days ago when she finished a head second behind Gravano over 2100 metres. The start before she had run third-last in the Gr.3 Skycity Hamilton Waikato Cup.

“We sent her to Moira (Murdoch) for a couple of weeks on the beach when she jarred up after the Waikato Cup,” said Pike’s mother, Vicky, who bred and races the Pentire five-year-old in partnership with her husband, Wayne. “Being at the beach has improved her out of sight.

“We’ll head toward the Auckland Cup and she could be a lovely mare to take to Brisbane for the Brisbane Cup later on.”

Chenille took her record to seven wins from 24 starts when holding out her stablemate Sacred Shot in the Windsor Park Stud Karaka Stayers Cup.

She was settled midfield on the fence by Leith Innes and improved to be fifth with 600 metres to run. Innes angled her across the heels of the runners in front with about 250 metres to run and she let down strongly to win by a neck.

“She’s a bit awkward to ride – she’s on and off the bit,” said Innes. “From the half-mile (800m) we got a nice drag into the race and I waited a bit until halfway down the straight. She had a bit of traffic to pass but once out into the clear she let down nicely.”

Vicky Pike couldn’t hold back her fondness for Chenille.

“I love this mare so much,” she said. “She’s bred on a very good cross by Pentire. We’ve bred, I think, three or four Group One winners now by him so I hope she can make it another one.”

Tony Pike also holds Chenille in high regard and was so pleased for his parents.

“She’s a real quality mare,” he said. “It’s great for my parents. Wayne is battling with ill-health at the moment so it’s a pick-up for him.”

Pike also rates runner-up Sacred Shot highly and was full of praise for his effort in just his fifth start.

“He is going places,” he said. “His run was super. He just got held up a touch at the half-mile.”

Sacred Shot tracked Chenille for much of the way and did well in his toughest assignment, jumping from a special conditions maiden win to open company.