Cambridge trainer Tony Pike took a big team south to Riccarton on Saturday and dominated proceedings, winning five of the 11 races on the day.
Fresh off producing a pair of impressive maiden three-year-old winners at Te Rapa on Friday in The Landing and Pareanui Bay, Pike unleashed more of his stable firepower at Riccarton with his five winners coming in the first seven races.
The Cambridge trainer linked successfully with jockey Kozzi Asano, who rode all five of Pike’s winners in picture perfect style.
Numbered amongst the victories were impressive performances by two-year-old Stimulant, who displayed a stunning turn of foot to take out an 800m contest on debut, along with three-year-olds There You Go, Chanel and Field Of Gold, who all enhanced their prospects for the Group One three-year-old classics at the venue next month.
Niagara filly There You Go, who holds a nomination for both the Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) and Group 1 Barneswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m), got the ball rolling when she dashed clear in the home straight to record her maiden victory over 1400m, after finishing fourth in the Listed The O’Learys Fillies Stakes (1200m) at Whanganui last month.
One race later Chanel, who holds similar nominations to her stablemate, showed plenty of grit to sit outside the speed before drawing clear in the final stages to win her 1400m maiden, before the heavily backed Stimulant (-250) rewarded his many supporters with a powerful sprint that saw him draw clear to win effortlessly by two lengths.
However, it was 2000 Guineas aspirant Field Of Gold who really took the eye as he toyed with his opposition in the home straight before cruising to an effortless two-length victory in the Inglewood Stud Guineas Trial (1400m).
The flashy chestnut, who is the half brother of Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) winner Sherwood Forest, hardly looked to be out of second gear as he sat outside the pace before idling to the front at the 300m for Asano and winning untouched by two lengths from the fast-finishing Noverre and Mackenzie Lad.
One race later the China Horse Club-owned Providenceprovides indicated she was ready to tackle stakes company later in the Riccarton spring carnival with an impressive fresh-up win over 1400m, providing Asano and Pike with win number five.
Pike was keen to keep expectations under control regarding the future prospects of his team but recognised each of his winners had taken important steps towards their campaign objectives.
“It was certainly a very good day and coming off the back of having two nice three-year-olds win at Te Rapa, it is extremely satisfying,” Pike said.
“Each of our winners have bigger tasks ahead of them, but they needed to get down there and racing to get them ready for those assignments.
“It’s hard to single out any one win in particular as I think they all showed they have the ability to go on to better things.”
Pike did admit he had been confident with most of his southern team but was taken with how two-year-old Stimulant handled his first trip away.
“He (Stimulant) is a lovely two-year-old and that was a good learning curve for him today,” he said.
“He had to take a sit and was a little green but the last 100m was pretty comfortable when he knuckled down and got into his work.
“Field Of Gold was also very good as we wanted to get him on to better ground after we had to run him in the wet at Te Rapa.
“We’ve always liked him as he is very progressive and showed that today after sitting a little wide, before racing away in the straight.”
Pike was also pleased with his two fillies in There You Go and Chanel, although he was a little worried that There You Go may have suffered an injury when she took an ungainly stride or two 100m from the winning post.
“There You Go has a huge stride and when she faltered a little, I did think the worst for a few moments,” he said.
“I think she just put her foot in a hole, but she pulled up well and doesn’t seem to have any issue.
“Chanel was also very good as I think her race had a little more depth in it, so she did a good job as well.”
While Pike enjoyed success at Riccarton, it wasn’t the same at Flemington where Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) candidate Tutukaka finished out of the placings in the Listed Super Impose Stakes (1800m) after being forced into the unfamiliar role of pacemaker.
“We wanted to be positive with him, but I didn’t expect him to lead,” Pike said.
“I think Damian (Lane) just got caught when he did go forward then got stuck in front when nothing else wanted to lead.
“He battled on okay and Damian was pretty positive after the race as he said he felt like he would take a ton of improvement from it.
“We’re still on target for the Derby as he pulled up well and will only benefit from the run.”