While Cambridge trainer Tony Pike has plenty to focus on in his homeland, with Surely Sacred the favourite for the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m), he will also have an eye across the Tasman shortly after the blue-riband event.
Progressive galloper Ever Loyal will contest the Group 3 Liverpool City Cup (1300m) at Randwick just ten minutes after the Derby and Pike believes he is a good chance of snaring the thick end of the prize in both races.
Ever Loyal has the services of Kerrin McEvoy and will jump from barrier eight in the competitive nine-horse field and is rated a $7.50 chance.
“His racing manners last season weren’t quite there,” Pike said. “He was a little bit aggressive and just did a few things wrong and he probably struggled to get 1600m.
“He had an injury enforced layoff and he has probably come back better than ever.
“His two runs resuming off a 12-month break have been exceptional. His sectionals have been very good, so I think it is time to step up in class and have a crack in Sydney on Saturday.
“He was probably a touch unlucky first-up in the Concorde (Gr.3, 1200m) behind a very promising horse in Ardrossan and he was very dominant last start in good time.
“I think he is definitely up to the Sydney class of horses in the lower grades at this stage and the long-range plan is to get some prizemoney in the bank and hopefully get his rating up to possibly have a go at a race like the Stradbroke (Gr.1, 1400m) in Queensland during the Winter Carnival.”
Pike couldn’t be happier with Surely Sacred, the $3.80 favourite for the New Zealand Derby on the back of a strong win in the Group 2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) last start.
“He’s had the perfect preparation,” Pike said. “He has won three out of five races and was possibly a little unlucky not to have run closer in the other two.
“He got shuffled up at a bad time in the Karaka Million 3YO race. It was a very slow tempo that day and he still closed well for fifth and was a dominant winner last start and probably off a pretty tough run.
“I don’t think the 2400m is going to be an issue. He is in good form and he is a very progressive horse, so I am looking forward to Saturday.”
Pike will once again join forces with jockey Vinnie Colgan who has been engaged to ride Surely Sacred. Colgan will be looking to add an incredible seventh New Zealand Derby to his record, with his most recent success in the race coming when riding Rangipo to victory in the 2016 Derby for Pike.