Split Enz told us that history never repeats but that theory might be tested at Ellerslie on Saturday.

Cambridge trainer Tony Pike won both the Avondale Guineas and Avondale Cup a year ago and has a real chance to repeat the group 2 double this weekend.

Pike, who was successful with Rangipo (Guineas) and Sacred Master (Cup) last year, will run Sacred Elixir in the $100,000 Retina Specialists Avondale Guineas (2100m) and Chenille in the $100,000 Go Racing Syndications Avondale Cup (2400m).

Both horses are likely to start favourite, bearing in mind that Sacred Elixir already heads the market for the $1 million Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) and Chenille is a $6 favourite for the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m).


Pike had only a small team at Te Rapa last Saturday but will be represented in numbers this weekend, with up to nine runners at Ellerslie and another five or six at the premier meeting at New Plymouth.

However, a forecast for rain at both venues on Saturday is causing some concern. "We are happy with the horses but I hope we don't get too much rain," Pike said. "Sacred Elixir wouldn't mind a bit of cut in the track but most of the others [at Ellerslie] want good ground."

The Taranaki team will include talented juvenile Aim Smart, who will tackle the $70,000 group 3 Phoenix Park Classic, provided track conditions suit.

It is less than three weeks since Sacred Elixir raced but it has been his Derby rivals Camino Rocoso, Savile Row and Wyndspelle who have captured the headlines in the past fortnight.

Sacred Elixir has been steady at $5 in the Derby market while Camino Rocoso and Savile Row have shortened to $6 and Waikato Guineas winner Wyndspelle is at $9.

Sacred Elixir's fresh-up run for fourth in the Karaka Mile might have disappointed punters who made him a $1.80 favourite but it was still a creditable effort. He settled back in the eight-horse field, came widest on the turn and made a likely bid before peaking on his run near the finish.

"He will be a lot more forward on Saturday," Pike said. "He's going to improve again with another run and the draws will play a part but he shouldn't be far away.

"He looks good and has become very relaxed after all his travelling."

History and common sense also suggest that any horse who finishes out of the placings in the Avondale Guineas will struggle to win the Derby and four of the last five Avondale Guineas winners have gone on to win the Ellerslie classic.

However, Pike has had to walk a fine line with Sacred Elixir who is scheduled to contest three Derbies this season.

He was the runner-up in the Victoria Derby in the spring and, all going well, the NZ Derby on March 4 will be followed by the A$600,000 ($638,000) Rosehill Guineas on March 18 and the A$2 million Australian Derby on April 1.

"It's going to be a long season for him but you have to take advantage of the money available for 3-year-olds," Pike said.

Leith Innes will ride both Sacred Elixir and Chenille on Saturday.

Chenille was a narrow but convincing winner of the Karaka Stayers Cup (2200m) at Ellerslie at her last start and is peaking at the right time. "We had a lot of issues with her in the spring and she jarred up in the Waikato Cup but she's flying now," Pike said.

- NZ Racing Desk