Racing: Provocative ready to annoy

By Mike Dillon

Trainer not concerned about outside barrier in Oaks providing rider Leith Innes with more options
Provocative at Ellerslie. Photo / Race Images
Provocative at Ellerslie. Photo / Race Images

Tony Pike is thankful patience is considered a virtue.

He had little choice in the decision, but the Cambridge trainer is delighted last week's huge Eagle Farm raceday was abandoned in favour of racing the feature tomorrow.

Pike strongly believes his A$500,000 Queensland Oaks filly Provocative is a better horse than she would have been if the classic had been run seven days earlier.

"She and the 2-year-old [Sacred Elixir] have thrived and will be in good shape for Saturday." The abandonment after last week's torrential rain guaranteed Provocative a start after a scratching allowed her back into the field from the first emergency spot.

Interestingly, a week ago Provocative was only one point behind a trio of fillies in terms of favouritism even though not guaranteed a start.

Now she is in the field Provocative is only third favourite in Australia at $8, behind Bjorn Baker's Imposing Lass at $6.50 and Godolphin's Falkenberg at $7.50.

"Perhaps punters are worried about her outside barrier," says Pike. The Cambridge trainer himself is not so concerned, the outside barrier providing rider Leith Innes with more options than the No1 gate.

"One thing I know is she will see the 2400m out better than some of the other fillies. She is an absolute stayer." For that reason Leith Innes should be able to make his charge forward when it suits against when riders dictated if he was locked up back on the rail.

New Zealand breds are three of the first five favourites and each are prepared by New Zealanders.

Imposing Lass is by Makfi, Provocative is from Cambridge as is Roger James' filly Romantic Maid, who shares the $9 third line of betting with Dawnie Perfect, who Pike has a fair bit of time for.

Australian bookmakers are taking no chances with Pike's Sacred Elixir, installing him the $4.40 favourite for the JJ Atkins, just ahead of Souchez at $4.80.

"He is really on top of his form," says Pike. "There was a lot to like about his easy win in his first-up win here at Caloundra, then he didn't get all the breaks when he got home strongly into sixth at Doomben." There is a vast difference between the tight Doomben track and the wide open spaces at Eagle Farm.

"He's going to love the 1600m at Eagle Farm." Another New Zealander, Perfect Fit, is on the third line of favouritism for the A$175,000 QTC Cup. His form at home has been impeccable and his ability to stretch out his cruising speed will be important tomorrow.

Pike's third group one runner at Eagle Farm tomorrow is sprinter Sacred Star, who is having his third crack at Queensland's premier race, the Stradbroke.

But he faces a tough assignment. Two years ago he produced probably the best run of his fine career to finish fifth in the race affectionately known in Queensland as the Straddie.

That day he came from barrier 18 of the eight runners and flew home from equal last to finish fifth, 1.8 lengths from winner River Lad in a race where they came close to breaking 1.21 for the 1400m. From a decent barrier he had to have won.

He finished sixth last year and this time, heading to the veteran stage, he is at $51 with the TAB across the Tasman, a reasonable assessment of his chances.

Vinny Colgan, who has had an excellent association with Sacred Star, is aboard.

Weekend pointers

Tried hard last time: Rock De Bank, R7 Te Rapa: Just beaten in a pretty good field at Ellerslie last start. Makes a lot of each-way appeal here.
Extra distance helps: Our King Sway, R4 Te Rapa. Raced like a horse looking for a middle distance at Ellerslie. Gets it here.
Deserved win here: Battle Time, R8 Te Rapa. Unlucky not to win at Ellerslie last time. Should get rewarded here. Take the short odds.

- NZ Herald

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