Cambridge trainer Tony Pike is preparing for one of the biggest days of his career, saddling runners in three Gr.1 features at Eagle Farm in Brisbane on Saturday.
Pike will be represented by Sacred Elixir in the J J Atkins, Provocative in the Queensland Oaks and Sacred Star in the Stradbroke Handicap.
Sacred Elixir, a talented son of Epsom Derby winner Pour Moi, will step up to 1600 metres in the J J Atkins.
After recording a win and a second placing in his first two starts, the gelding stepped up to the big time and ran a fast-finishing sixth in the Karaka Million at just his third career start. He began his Queensland winter campaign with an easy win over 1400 metres at the Sunshine Coast, then stepped down to 1350 metres for the Gr. 2 Sires’ Produce Stakes and was doing his best work late when sixth.
Sacred Elixir will be ridden tomorrow by Zac Purton, who wore the same colours of Raffles Racing to Doncaster Mile glory aboard Sacred Falls.
“It was a very good lead-up run the other day in the Sires’ Produce Stakes,” Pike said. “He’s drawn a touch awkwardly at gate 13, although he’ll come in to 11 if the emergencies are scratched. We’ll probably try to ride him midfield and get the last run at them down the straight.
“He’s an exciting horse and he’s been doing well over here. In the back of our minds we’re thinking about the VRC Derby in the spring. There’s still a long way to go until then, but that was part of the thinking behind bringing him here.
“After the race on Saturday he can have a spell in Queensland before travelling down to Melbourne for the spring.”
Provocative made the Queensland Oaks field off the ballot following the scratching of the Leon Macdonald and Andrew Gluyas-trained Beluga Blue.
Following last Saturday’s postponement of the A$500,000 fillies’ feature, Pike raised the possibility of Provocative instead being pointed at tomorrow’s Queensland Derby. But he decided on Wednesday morning to stick with the original plan of running the Zabeel filly against her own sex.
“It was a hard decision, but she was already in the Oaks field and we weren’t able to pay up for both races,” Pike explained. “The owners already have Rodrico in the Derby, so we decided to stick with the Oaks.
“The wide draw (20) is a touch of a concern, but hopefully the track will be playing okay and Leith (Innes) can get across and give her a good run.”
Provocative is the winner of three of her six starts, including a dominant last-start victory at Ipswich.
“She struggled a bit getting around the tight Ipswich track,” Pike said. “She’s a filly who I’m sure is going to really appreciate the step up to 2400 metres, and she’s already shown in her trackwork that she appreciates the roomy Eagle Farm track. It’s perfect for her racing style.
“We’ve been really pleased with her work. She’s done very well and seems to be loving life in Brisbane at the moment.”
Provocative is currently rated an $8 chance in the Oaks, the third favourite behind Imposing Lass ($6) and Falkenberg ($7).
Pike’s other Eagle Farm runner tomorrow, also owned by Raffles Racing, is Stradbroke Handicap candidate Sacred Star.
The multiple Group One winner has run in Queensland’s showpiece race twice before, finishing a luckless fifth in 2014 and a close sixth 12 months ago.
Sacred Star was entered to run in the Gr. 2 QTC Cup last Saturday, which was postponed to tomorrow, but the gelding will line up in the Stradbroke instead.
“The owners really wanted him to run in the Stradbroke,” Pike said. “Whether he’s still competitive in a race like that, we’ll have to wait and see.
“But he’s come up with a good draw, gate eight. It looks like there’s a lot of speed in the race, which should suit him, and on his best form I think he could be a nice place chance.”