Trainer eyeing sacred victory with 2YO
Tony Pike will be chasing what would be a highly satisfying Queensland victory on Wednesday with the promising two-year-old Rudyard.
The Cambridge trainer’s youngster has fared well in the barrier draw and will jump from gate five on the synthetic track at the Sunshine Coast with Leith Innes to take the reins.
The race in their sights is the Sacred Elixir QTIS Handicap (1400m), so named after the Pike-trained son of Pour Moi who won the Gr.1 JJ Atkins Stakes (1600m) during the 2016 Brisbane winter carnival.
“He was a very, very good horse so it would be quite cool if we could win the race,” Pike said.
On return visits to Australia, Sacred Elixir was also successful in the Gr.2 Moonee Valley Vase (2040m), the Gr.3 Caulfield Guineas Prelude (1400m) and finished runner-up in the Gr.1 VRC Derby (2500m).
A son of Charm Spirit and the two-time Group Two winner Lady Kipling, Rudyard was a debut winner at Rotorua in March and then finished runner-up at Te Rapa before departing for Brisbane.
“He went over there a reasonably fit horse and has settled in well and has been working well,” Pike said.
“The biggest concern is whether he is going to operate as well on the polytrack as he has on the grass.
“The 1400m is probably perfect for him, given his style of racing, and if he does handle the track okay he should be a genuine chance.”
Pike will also be represented on the Sunshine Coast card by the Zacinto four-year-old Bentayga in The Barn Family Restaurant Handicap (1600m).
He will be making a fresh start having won over 2100m at Awapuni in January and three weeks later ran fourth over the same trip at Trentham before a break.
“He will be better when he gets up in trip over there and it’s been a similar problem in trying to find a track to kick off on,” Pike said.
“It has been the worst carnival I have been to weather-wise, it’s just made it near on impossible.
“I hope to get him through to some staying races later on, but we’ll have to play it by ear. He has trialled up okay on the polytrack at Cambridge.”
Successful in an open 1300m heat last month, Bentayga will have the benefit of the inside barrier and experienced jockey Jim Byrne.
“Obviously, he has drawn gate one and if he can get a nice, soft trip just in behind the speed somewhere he could run into the placings,” Pike said.
He will also have representation at his home Cambridge meeting and considered The Statesman in the Carter Contracting Maiden (975m) to be his best hope.
He finished sixth on debut behind multiple winner and stakes performer Charmario at the first time of asking and will again be ridden by Michael McNab.
“He is a work in progress and he has got plenty of ability. He did a bit wrong at Te Rapa in a hot race and there are a few trial winners that go well,” Pike said. “There will be a lot of speed on, which will help as he got a bit keen the other day.
“Again, the polytrack is a bit of an unknown, even though he has worked on it and if he can get a nice run he is good enough to win a race like this if he does everything right.”Cup doubt for Asterix
The chances of seeing Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) winner Asterix on the track this spring are slim according to co-trainer Lance O’Sullivan.
The son of Tavistock was an impressive winner of the blue riband event back in March off an unconventional preparation of just four starts for O’Sullivan and training partner Andrew Scott.
Part-owner Sam Kelt immediately flagged the Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) as a spring target for smart staying three-year-old, who has stamina in his pedigree, however ongoing foot issues could thwart that plan.
“We have been plagued with problems with his feet all along, even prior to the Derby and we are still struggling with it,” O’Sullivan said.
“He has been out and had a spell and been brought back into the yard but there may have to be further remedial work done on his feet.
“At this stage a spring campaign in Melbourne is looking highly unlikely, which is a little bit disappointing.
“But he will keep. He is only a young horse that is three, rising four, and we are probably now more looking towards an autumn campaign.”
Secret Amour stays local
Five-year-old mare Secret Amour will not join Robbie Patterson’s touring party in Queensland despite turning in a slashing performance to finish third to Francesca in last Saturday’s Gr.3 Rydges Rotorua Stakes (1400m) at Arawa Park.
The daughter of Niagara joined Patterson’s team earlier this year from the Jamie Richards stable and made an immediate impact, winning an open handicap at Wanganui last month after coming from last.
“She had a couple of issues late in her career at Te Akau, but they had done a fantastic job with her and she had won four races for them,” Patterson said.
“I am only picking up from where they left off. I am grateful to get her and she is a magnificent mare. Her win first-up was phenomenal and her run the other day at Rotorua was virtually a winning run, without winning.
“We thought about taking her to Australia, but she won at Wanganui last time and there is a Listed race (AGC Training Stakes at WFA) there over a mile on June 4.
“It is all about black-type for these mares and given the way she won at Wanganui first-up, she obviously likes the track and she will love a mile. It will be her race to lose, I’d imagine, at weight-for-age.”
Gospodin in search of Stradbroke berth
Tauranga horseman Jim Pender has ventured further north with his charge Gospodin as he looks to add further Australian dollars to the bank account.
The son of Proisir has proved adept in rain-affected conditions and after impressing when second at his first Australian start in the Listed Takeover Target Stakes (1200m) at Gosford, Gospodin is now in Queensland where he will contest Saturday’s Gr.3 BRC Sprint (1350m) at Doomben, where the track is currently a Heavy 10.
“He has been a happy horse from the day he arrived and he raced accordingly at Gosford,” Pender told Bensley.
“I was over the moon with the run. He is probably not as bouncy as he was, he was on the fresher side going into that race but I am very pleased with him.”
Gospodin emerged as a very good wet-weather sprinter last winter, winning six races in a row between early June and early October.
Brock Ryan will again take the ride on the talented four-year-old on Satuday, where Pender hopes his charge can force his way into the Gr.1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm on June 11.
“I put a nomination in for the Stradbroke but he would have to win this to get in it,” he said.
“You travel all this way so it is worth putting a nomination in. You have your fingers crossed and hope we get a reasonable draw so he doesn’t have to do a lot of work.”