Stable picks up Group race double

New Year’s Day at Ellerslie always promised to be a highlight for Cambridge trainers Tony Pike and Mark Donoghue and they weren’t disappointed.

The training partners took a powerful team to the Auckland meeting and though success eluded them in the main event, the Gr. 1 Sistema Railway Stakes, with their charge Waterford having to settle for second to Matamata filly Bounding, they picked up a double on the day.

Vinnie Eagle, as expected by the stable followers, won the Gr. 3 Barneswood Farm Eclipse Stakes to confirm his flight to Sydney for the Listed $A250,000 Inglis Classic at Randwick on January 18, while Chintz prevailed in the Gr. 2 Rich Hill Mile.

More Than Sacred and Sacred Star, the other big hopes for the stable, were affected by the heavy showers of rain which hit Ellerslie. More Than Sacred was a gallant fourth in the Gr. 2 Scot Thrust City Of Auckland Cup, while Sacred Star finished fifth to Chintz.

Vinnie Eagle was impressive when maintaining his unbeaten record. The Australian-bred son of I Am Invincible had been a trials winner at Cambridge on December 10 before winning on debut at Ruakaka on September 14 and was then put aside with the sole purpose of having just one lead-up to the Inglis Classic.

“This was going to be the only other race he had before going to Sydney and he’s done the job,” said Pike. “He’s come up enormous this preparation. He had a bit of a look at everything halfway down the straight but he won it well.”

Vinnie Eagle is eligible for the Sydney event, having been bought for his Australian owner Colin Keen at the Sydney Inglis Yearling Sales for A$65,000 and will have a hit-and-run bid on the rich event. But a new rider will have to be found.

“Leith will be riding at Trentham the same day so we’ve got to find another rider,” said Pike. “I’m going to have a talk to James to see if he is available. I shouldn’t have much trouble finding a rider for him.”

McDonald was thrilled to know he was in consideration for the Vinnie Eagle ride in Sydney, but is unsure whether he would be able to take the ride.

“It all depends on how Mossfun is going,” said McDonald. “I won one of the Inglis races on him and he’s supposed to be going for it. If I’m not on him, I’d love to ride Vinnie Eagle. He was pretty impressive and he’s professional.”

As thrilled as he was by Vinnie Eagle’s win, Pike got even more of a buzz from the Rich Hill Mile success of Chintz as he co-bred and races the four-year-old with his parents, Vicki and Wayne Pike, who were on hand for the big occasion. The same trio also bred and race Waterford, who was game in defeat in the Sistema Railway Stakes.

Chintz made it three wins from five starts this campaign and was due a change of luck in the Rich Hill Mile. “She hadn’t had a lot of luck in her last two runs,” said Pike. “With 52kg on an off-track she was a good chance. It was good to see her get the job done.”

The connections of Chintz may consider paying a late entry for the Gr. 1 $200,000 Harcourts Thorndon Mile at Trentham on January 25. “We could look at that or give her a break and come back for the Breeders’ Stakes at Te Aroha,” said Pike.