More Group One goals for Cambridge trainers

A double at Ellerslie yesterday will keep Cambridge trainers Tony Pike and Mark Donoghue on the Group One trail for the next month.

Though the trainers had no luck in the Gr. 1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup with More Than Sacred, who stormed home for third behind Who Shot Thebarman and Sydney visitor Celtic Prince, they picked up the other two black-type races on the programme.

Chintz landed her second Ellerslie feature this year when adding yesterday’s Gr. 3 $70,000 Westbury Classic to the Gr. 2 Rich Hill Mile she won on New Year’s Day, while Rock Diva was an impressive winner of the Gr. 3 $70,000 McKee Family Sunline Vase.

Chintz’s win, her sixth from 14 starts, was some compensation for losing her rider when shying in the early stages of the Gr. 1 Harcourts Thorndon Mile at Trentham on January 25 and it has put her in line for three more feature events.

The Trentham incident ruled Chintz out of a start in the Gr. 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes at Te Rapa last month, but, as Pike says, it has given the Savabeel mare an extended campaign.

“Although she pulled up well after the Thorndon she hadn’t had the race and we decided against going to Te Rapa,” he said. “Instead we freshened her and it could be a blessing in disguise.

“She has come into today’s race with fresh legs and she’s missed running on the hard tracks. She can go on and have another three runs.”

The three races the Pikes and co-trainer Mark Donoghue have in mind are the Gr. 2 Windsor Park Japan Trophy at Tauranga on March 22, the Gr. 1 Fiber Fresh NZ Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes at Te Aroha on April 5 and the Gr. 1 Manco Easter Handicap at Ellerslie a week later.

Michael Walker landed the ride on Chintz and he rode her with the utmost confidence, pushing her forward to sit outside the leader Our Pink Diamond in the early stages.

Chintz was bolting with 600 metres to run and hit the front on straightening. Though a sitting duck for the opposition, she never looked like being run down and kept her rivals easily at bay, scoring by two and a half lengths.

Two races later Pike and his parents, Vicki and Wayne, who share with him in the breeding and ownership of Chintz, were back in the winner’s enclosure with Rock Diva after a decisive win in the McKee Family Sunline Vase.

The Pike – Donoghue stable also won last year’s event, with More Than Sacred, who is also in the same ownership as Rock Diva, that of Raffles Dancers Pty Ltd. More Than Sacred then went on to win the Gr. 1 Wellfield NZ Oaks and that is also the next goal for Rock Diva.

Rock Diva, a daughter of Lucky Unicorn, wasn’t entered for the NZ Oaks, but she will now be a late entry for the 2400-metre classic and could even start favourite.

“We didn’t put her in because she hadn’t even trialled at that stage or even been named,” said Pike.”She’s a progressive filly, a lovely big scopey filly who has just kept improving.

“That was a lovely Oaks trial today. She just cruised around them so easily.”

Rock Diva had been placed in her first two starts and earned a crack at today’s race with a maiden 2100-metre win at Pukekohe last month. She won the maiden race in good style, but it was nothing compared to the way she dealt to some talented fillies today.

Settled back by rider Leith Innes as Her Choice made the pace with the McKee-trained Moozoon on her outer to the home straight. Moozoon kicked ahead on straightening but it was soon obvious Rock Diva was the big danger.

Rock Diva had swept up wide on the home turn and was launching an irresistible finish, one which took her past Moozoon and on to a two-length win.

“She was off the bit and lobbing,” said Innes. “She did it easily and is only going to improve. She’ll have no trouble with the 2400 (metres).”

It comes as no surprise to see the stamina shown by Rock Diva as she is a half-sister to Shamrocker, winner of the Gr. 1  AJC Derby.