IN Racing
Pike fillies ready to rock in Lowland
Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | February 26, 2024
Harlow Rocks is one of two chances for Tony Pike in Wednesday's Gr.2 Little Avondale Lowland Stakes (2100m) at Hastings. Photo: Peter Rubery (Race Images Palmerston North)

Harlow Rocks announced herself into the Oaks equation last-start behind Molly Bloom, and won’t have the star filly to contend with in Wednesday’s Gr.2 Little Avondale Lowland Stakes (2100m) at Hastings.

Under the care of Cambridge conditioner Tony Pike, Harlow Rocks was a gallant pacemaker in the Gr.2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies’ Classic (2000m) on February 10, holding off her more favoured rivals, bar Molly Bloom, at the Te Rapa finishing post.

The daughter of Roc De Cambes will line-up in the Hawke’s Bay fillies’ feature with Ryan Elliot retaining the ride, and Pike is hopeful of a confident display as a final prelude to the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham on March 16.

“She keeps improving in each run as she gets further into her preparation, and it’s certainly no disgrace to be beaten by Molly Bloom, she ran second in a high-class field of fillies,” he said.

“She looks to be a strong staying filly, she’s trained on well and hopefully she can perform well as a final lead-up to the Oaks.

“The barrier (13) is a bit sticky, but she’ll roll forward from that gate and take up a handy position. She’s usually quite sharp out so whether she takes the lead or sits outside the leader, we’ll leave that up to Ryan.”

Joining Harlow Rocks will be stablemate Sign Of Peace, the Preferment filly stepping into black-type company after four top-three finishes in as many attempts, including breaking maidens over 1400m in mid-January.

“She’s a staying filly that will have her first time over a middle-distance trip, but she’s always suggested that she’d prefer the staying distances,” Pike said.

“This is a big jump in class for her, but she’s trained on well. This will determine whether she presses onto the Oaks or not.”

Pike found success in last year’s Lowland with Val Di Zoldo, and his pair currently sit as $8 (Harlow Rocks) and $21 (Sign Of Peace) chances on the TAB Fixed Odds to go back-to-back.

Unbeaten in two classy raceday performances, Witz End will headline a competitive group of undercard chances for Pike at Hastings, when contesting the New Zealand Bloodstock Insurance 3YO (1300m).

Sam Weatherley earned praise for a positive front-running ride on the son of Savabeel at Trentham, winning form that was franked with runner-up Terra Preta finding success at her next start, and third placegetter Hasstobeawinner narrowly falling short in the $350,000 Sir Patrick Hogan Karapiro Classic (1600m).

“He’s a very progressive three-year-old, I’ve got a lot of time for him,” Pike said.

“He’s stepping up to the open three-year-old race, but he won the special conditions maiden at Wellington with reasonable ease, so he’s a horse I think is well up to stakes company this preparation.

“We’ll be using this race as a lead-in for the Wellington Guineas (Gr.2, 1400m) on Oaks Day.”

Weatherley will remain on board, while Per-Anders Graberg will partner stablemate Cannon Hill in the same event, with the Ardrossan gelding an impressive winner during the Spring Carnival.

“He performed in some decent three-year-old races last preparation, he’s been gelded since and trialled up nicely. He’ll run a cheeky race in a fresh state,” Pike said.

Dimaggio has established an impeccable track record at Hastings, with each of his three career successes coming on the Central Districts course, and the Almanzor four-year-old will target a fourth in the Hawke’s Bay Racing Function Centre Handicap (1400m).

“He loves Hawke’s Bay, he’s won three races there and he’s in really good form at the moment, he was probably unlucky not to win at Te Rapa last start,” Pike said.

“If he gets a bit of luck from another tricky draw (11), he’ll be hard to beat again.”

Pike also favours the chances of the recently gelded Lanikai in the Linden Estate Winery Maiden, while stablemate Maldini also will return in a fresh state for the 1400m event.

“Lanikai is a horse we really like as a staying three-year-old going forward. We decided to geld him since his last run, he was just doing a fair bit wrong in his races, but I think he could go to quite a good level this preparation,” he said.

“Even though the 1400m will be well short of his best, I think he’ll be extremely hard to beat from a good gate.

“Maldini didn’t really come up last preparation, but he’s going a lot better this time in and with a good draw, he’s definitely got the ability to clear maidens.” 

Harlow Rocks Per-Anders Graberg Tony Pike Roc de Cambes Sign Of Peace Witz End Gr.2 Wellington Guineas Dimaggio Sam Weatherley Gr. 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks Gr.2 Little Avondale Stud Lowland Stakes