IN Racing
Pike dominates early stakes races at Trentham
“She was always travelling well and despite getting some buffeting she is a pretty hard horse to get past when she gets in front.”
Kevin Robertson, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | January 13, 2024
Lily Sutherland celebrates Churchillian's victory in the Gr.3 Dixon & Dunlop Anniversary Handicap (1600m). Photo: Peter Rubery (Race Images Palmerston North)

Cambridge trainer Tony Pike made a flying start to racing at Trentham on Saturday when he produced the winners of the first two stakes races on a day featuring five black type events.

Just one race after promising filly Archaic Smile dominated her two-year-old rivals in the Listed IRT Wellesley Stakes (1100m), underrated mare Churchillian produced a dogged effort to take out the Gr.3 Dixon & Dunlop Anniversary Handicap (1600m).

Rider Lily Sutherland had the four-year-old daughter of Churchill positioned on the heels of pacemaker Sergio throughout after beginning well from barrier 12 and loomed up to make her challenge shortly after turning for home.

Left a sitting duck as Sergio dropped off quickly, Churchillian found a good kick to draw two lengths clear before repelling a stern challenge from Apostrophe in the final few strides, winning by an ever reducing long head margin with Town Cryer battled on strongly to take third.

It was the first win at the elite level for Churchillian and one that Pike found particularly satisfying.

“She deserved that as she has been consistent all season,” Pike said.

“Things didn’t completely go her way as she was taken off the track at the top of the straight when things got a bit tight, but she is a good honest mare.

“She was always travelling well and despite getting some buffeting she is a pretty hard horse to get past when she gets in front.”

Pike was non-committal on a programme for the mare over the summer months but indicated a brief spell could be on the cards.

“We will just wait and see how she comes through this but she has been up quite a while with some tough racing,” he said.

“She is a promising mare going forward and I think she will only get better as she gets a bit of age on her.”

Sutherland was also quick to praise the attitude of her mount.

“She is just so tough,” she said.

“There was a lot of speed in the race but she crossed over easily and although the horse inside her (Sergio) ran her out a bit she was too tough.

“She tried really really hard and I was lucky to be on her.

“I’m very lucky to be on horses for the stable and they are going very well.”

Bred by Sir Peter Vela under his Pencarrow Thoroughbreds banner, Churchillian is the first foal of Fastnet Rock mare Fond du Coeur and is closely related to a number of International stakes performers including 2006 Champion older mare of Europe, Pride, who won three times at Group One level including the Gr.1 2006 Hong Kong Cup (2000m).

Purchased by Bloodstock agent Paul Willets for $100,000 from her breeders’ draft at the 2021 Book 1 Sale at Karaka, the mare has now won six of her 19 starts and over $196,00 in prizemoney for her connections. 

Churchillian Lily Sutherland Tony Pike Pencarrow Stud Sir Peter Vela Dixon & Dunlop Anniversary Handicap