Despite a mixed bag of results for his two runners in Sydney on Saturday, Cambridge trainer Tony Pike was pleased with how the day unfolded and the prospects that lie ahead for the pair.
The Bostonian further enhanced his reputation as a leading sprinter-miler when he finished a gallant second to Dreamforce in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) while Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) winner Sherwood Forest made a satisfactory Australian debut when battling on gamely to finish seventh in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) won by Castelvecchio.
While Pike was forced to take in the action from a television screen back in New Zealand due to the international travel restrictions in place from the Covid-19 pandemic, he was thankful that racing was taking place at all during some worrying times. “It would have been nice to have been over there but I’m just pleased that it is all still going,” Pike said. “We’re just carrying on as best we can so it was really pleasing to see our two go the good races that they did.”
After receiving a perfect run in transit when winning the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) first-up in his current campaign, The Bostonian received a different rub of the green on Saturday when forced to settle further off the mixed tempo set up by Dreamforce than was ideal, a move which Pike believes cost him the race.
“He (The Bostonian) was super and it was just unfortunate he had Spend over-racing inside of him early on which didn’t allow us to sit outside Dreamforce like we wanted to,” Pike said. “I think that made all the difference as they walked in the mid stages and Dreamforce got that bit of a break on him. “He was very strong late and just missed so if he could have landed outside the speed, which was the plan, then he probably wins the race.
“He’s flying though and couldn’t be going any better so now we will hunker down and head to the All Aged Stakes (Group 1, 1400m) in three weeks.”
Pike was also happy with the report he received from jockey Michael Walker after Sherwood Forest appeared to peak slightly on his run over the concluding stages of the Rosehill Guineas, his first start since his New Zealand Derby triumph on February 28. “We were using the race as a lead up to the Australian Derby (Group 1, 2400m) so we may have been a little soft on him since his last run,” he said.
“To be fair though two or three of those more brilliant three-year-olds just sprinted and left him standing but he kept grinding away and Michael was quite happy with him. “He said that would just tighten him up nicely and that the mile and a half was going to suit him a lot better. “He has taken all the travel in his stride so hopefully he improves a couple of lengths after the run and he can bring that to the Derby in a fortnight.”
The Pike stable did find the winner’s circle back in New Zealand with enigmatic mare Walkin’ By making it back-to-back victories with a win over 1300m at Tauranga after overcoming a tardy start in the contest. “She’s going well for us although she’s a funny mare who doesn’t like those barriers much,” Pike said. “She flew the gates at Ellerslie when she won but just walked out yesterday.
“We’d love to get some black type with her so we might go to the open sprint (Listed, 1200m) at Hastings on Hawke’s Bay Cup Day and if she could run top three it would be great for her owners.”