Tony Pike is pleased he took advantage of yesterday morning's gallops session at Ellerslie to further educate the unbeaten Whiskey Neat in preparation for Saturday's Karaka Million 2YO (1200m).
The Cambridge trainer took five of his possible six runners for Saturday's Ellerslie meeting to work in company and said he couldn't be happier with their hit-outs, particularly his two $1 million feature candidates Whiskey Neat and Surely Sacred (Karaka Million 3YO Classic).
"The track was perfect after they put a bit of water on it overnight and they all went well," Pike said.
Pike also galloped the multiple stakes winner Indecision, who will be nominated for both the group two Westbury Classic (1400m) and the group three Preferment@ Brighthill Farm Concorde Handicap (1200m), as well as Ever Loyal (Concorde Handicap) and Cyber Attack (group three Mongolian Trophy 1200m).
Whiskey Neat, currently the $3.60 second favourite on TAB Fixed Odds betting behind Probabeel ($2.60) for the Karaka Million 2YO, was ridden by raceday jockey Leith Innes and worked with Indecision (Michael McNab). The pair were timed to run their final 600m in 36.26s.
"They went evens from the 1000m and quickened from the 400m," Pike said. "Whiskey Neat dropped in behind Indecision and Leith hooked him out at the top of the straight and he finished it off well.
"Indecision is flying at the moment and was a good horse to work with."
Whiskey Neat cruised home by 10 lengths on debut at Otaki on November 30 and he again led throughout when winning the group three Eclipse Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year's Day, though he did run about in the home straight.
"In his gallop, he cornered well and did everything right," Pike said. "He's a bit more experienced now and I don't think it will be a problem on Saturday."
Though Whiskey Neat has used his speed to lead in each of his races, Pike isn't relying on the same tactic having to be employed in the Karaka Million 2YO.
"He's got a high cruising speed and a big action on him, and when he won his first start, he was just a class above them then in the Eclipse. We just took luck out of the equation and went to the front," Pike said. "It will be our intention to lead if we get a good draw, but if something wants to take him on, then Leith can take a sit with him. Leith can work it out."
Pike hasn't made any definite plans for Whiskey Neat beyond Saturday's $1 million assignment.
"This has been his grand final. It's the one we've always targeted for him and we'll just see what happens on Saturday, then work out what to do with him," Pike said.
While Whiskey Neat pleased Pike, the Cambridge trainer was even more excited with the progress of Surely Sacred.
A son of Rock 'N' Pop, Surely Sacred won on debut before finishing second to Spirits Aubeer in the group three Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie and rounded off his race build-up with an impressive win in the group two Auckland Guineas (1600m), again at Ellerslie, on New Year's Day.
"He's getting better all the time," Pike said. "Of all my horses to gallop at Ellerslie [yesterday], he impressed me most. He had a bit of a freshen up after the Guineas and he's got a great turn of foot. He's going to be even better when he gets over longer trips than the 1600m."
Surely Sacred is the equal third favourite at $12 on TAB Fixed Odds betting for the group one Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m).
With Innes in the saddle, he worked with stablemate Ever Loyal (McNab) and the pair ran the quickest last 600m of the session (34.62s) after quickening from that point.
- NZ Racing Desk