Wayne Pike is seeking a second Auckland Cup win on Saturday, nearly 40 years after his first.
Pike, who raced the 1981 Cup winner Drum, bred and races the 2017 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup favourite Chenille.
Chenille has been a family project, as Pike bred the mare in partnership with his wife, Vicki, and son Tony, who also share in the ownership, with Tony training the mare at Cambridge.
Drum, who was trained by Don Sellwood, was an outstanding galloper. He was a dominant Auckland Cup winner, with 57.5kg, and sharp enough to run fourth in the group one Waikato Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa at his next start. He also won twice over 1600m at weight-for-age.
Chenille might not reach the same heights as Drum but, given a suitable track, will be the horse to beat on Saturday.
The Pentire mare was a decisive winner of the Nathans Memorial (2200m) on the track last weekend, comes in beautifully at the weights and has had four wins and two seconds from eight starts at Ellerslie.
She is the highest rated runner in the Cup field but under the set weight and penalties format will carry 53.5kg, just 0.5kg above the minimum and 3kg less than she carried in the Nathans.
"She has come through the Nathans brilliantly - we're really pleased with her," Tony Pike said. "Everything looks to be falling into place for her, apart from the weather forecast.
"Heavy falls are forecast [for Auckland] for the next few days and that's not going to be ideal.
"The track will be able to take a fair bit of rain and a lot will depend on what happens on Friday and Saturday. But if the track gets into the slow range, we will probably be in a bit of trouble [with Chenille].
"It would be disappointing [if the track is wet] because you don't often have the Auckland Cup favourite and you can't line up in another $500,000 race a fortnight later. But she probably won't be favourite if the track is wet."
Chenille will be having her first attempt at 3200m but has an excellent middle distance record, with six wins and five placings from 15 starts at 2000m or further. She has failed in three starts at 2400m but had a genuine excuse each time.
"You never know for sure till they try but I think she will get the distance," Pike said. "She wasn't stopping at the line last week and it took a while to pull her up after the race.
"It was a good even tempo [in the Nathans] and she relaxed nicely. The key will be to get her to switch off, as she can be a bit keen."
Pike has a good strike rate in the Auckland Cup, winning with Rock Diva two years ago and recording placings with Sacred Master (2016) and More Than Sacred (2014).
Chenille has been the Auckland Cup favourite for some time but eased to $5 yesterday, with the prospect of a wet track on Saturday, with Fanatic at $7 and Five To Midnight and Mister Impatience at $8.
Five To Midnight, who handles wet ground, had shortened from $10 and Jacksstar and Megablast also shortened yesterday, while Pentathlon was another to lengthen in the market as a result of the forecast.
The Pike stable will have form runners in two group one races on Saturday, with the juveniles Felton Road and Ujjayyi tackling the Sistema Stakes (1200m).
Felton Road, who has not been tried on wet ground, won his first two starts, before finishing third in the Karaka Million. "He went super in a jumpout at Ellerslie last week and worked well again this morning " Pike said.
Ujjayyi, an Iffraaj filly, won well at Te Aroha on debut before running off when racing left-handed in the Matamata Breeders' Stakes. "She just doesn't go left-handed and I think she will handle an off-track," Pike said.
"A wet track might even things up [in the Sistema], as I doubt that anything could beat Summer Passage on a good track."
- NZ Racing Desk