Tony Pike's chances of training a $1 million winner on Saturday have diminished but the Cambridge trainer is pretty happy about it.
Pike has withdrawn third favourite The Irishman from the $1m Karaka Classic Mile at Ellerslie on Saturday after the 3-year-old was sold to Hong Kong buyers, the deal being confirmed yesterday.
That leaves Pike with $12 chance Mr Blue Sky in Saturday's other mega race, the Karaka Million, but the sale of The Irishman also means he will miss the $1m Vodafone Derby on March 6, so Pike misses two shots at million-dollar glory in the next six weeks.
But while he says the sale is bittersweet, it vindicates a plan Pike put in place two years ago.
Pike went to the Karaka yearling sales in 2019 to buy high-quality colts for a group of owners which included major stud farms Waikato Stud and Haunui Farm, as well as Raffles Racing and other local owners who believe in Pike's vision.
"We wanted to buy colts with the ultimate ambition of developing some into stallion prospects, which is not easy to do, winning black-type races or selling them," explains Pike. "So far, we couldn't be happier with the results."
Pike and his partners bought six colts that year and The Irishman is their second huge result with what is likely to be a seven-figure sales price to his new owners.
Last year, the same ownership group sold one of the other six colts Not An Option to Cambridge Stud, and while his 3-year-old season has been curtailed, he is being set for Group 1 races, with the ultimate aim of standing at stud.
"Sadly one of the colts died in a paddock accident but we have three more to go on with and we have already turned a big profit on what we were trying to achieve," says Pike.
"Not only am I thrilled to be able to do that for the owners but it is important for the industry.
"We are trying to demonstrate the good colts sold at Karaka are very commercial in a variety of markets and the results of that first year prove that already. So yes, I'd love to have him [The Irishman] racing this Saturday and probably even more so in the Derby in March but it is a really good sale and he will do a big job for the guys who bought him."
As you might expect, Pike has had no issues filling his new colt ownership group as he prepares to attack this year's sale which starts at Karaka on Sunday.
"I have looked at 150 yearlings today and we are having no problems putting a list [of prospective horses to buy] together because there are some quality horses there."
The Irishman joins Levin Classic winner Bonham as the major withdrawals from Saturday's million-dollar races but the Classic was already looking a two-horse war between Aegon and Amarelinha.
The Karaka Million looks far more open, with all the major players from the last few weeks set to be included in the final field before the barrier draw at the Karaka sales ground at 11am tomorrow.
On The Bubbles is the $3.80 pre-draw favourite over stablemate Millefiori at $4.40, with the fairytale story of the race Follow Your Dreams the $7 third favourite.