IN Racing
River Run, Pacific Dragon spearhead Pike stable weekend
Cambridge trainer Tony Pike is looking forward to round five of an engaging battle between his in-form stayer River Run.
NZ Racing Desk | September 09, 2022
River Run will contest the Harcourts Tai Tokerau Cup. Photo: Trish Dunell

Cambridge trainer Tony Pike is looking forward to round five of an engaging battle between his in-form stayer River Run and his arch-nemesis Hit The Road Jack in Saturday's Harcourts Tai Tokerau Cup (2200m) at Ruakaka.

River Run and Hit The Road have met on four occasions already with River Run having Hit The Road Jack's measure when he won the Te Awamutu Cup (1600m) and the Taumarunui Cup (2200m), both at Te Rapa in July.

But the Shaun Phelan-trained Hit The Road Jack had beaten River Run home at their first meeting at Te Rapa last November, when they finished third and fourth over 2100m at Te Rapa, and led home third-placed River Run when he won the Ruakaka Cup (2200m) last month.

River Run meets Hit The Road Jack 2kg better for Saturday's race even with Pike opting to engage senior jockey Troy Harris rather than enhance that variant with an apprentice allowance.

"We considered claiming but we've put Troy on to take the dead weight off his back and we're still in two kilos better off," Pike said.

"It was a funny run race last time and that didn't suit us but being a small field again, that might work out the same. He's in great form and it looks the quinella again barring bad luck. 

"He loves Ruakaka and he'll be a good, genuine chance again. He's bright and maintaining his form and we're really happy with him.

"But Hit The Road Jack is at his peak now and whether the pull in the weights is still too much will be interesting. We're just hoping Troy can pull the rabbit out of his hat to get us home."

Pike said he would play the remainder of River Run's preparation on a race-by-race basis but indicated a start in November's Gr.3 Martin Collins New Zealand Cup (3200m) at Riccarton was now unlikely.

Pike will produce Double O' Seven in the Lion 11 and Outrival in the Dunstan Accumulator 2200 at Ruakaka.

"Double O' Seven is a promising horse and he's trialled up nicely for his first start back,” Pike said.

“The 1100m is probably going to be on the sharp side but he'll probably get back and hit the line well and be better over further deeper into his preparation.

"I quite like Outrival as a staying horse. He just bogged down in the heavy track at Te Rapa last time but he's progressive and it wouldn't surprise me to see him go close. Next preparation, he could develop into a nice open handicap stayer."

Pike's main flagbearer on Saturday will be at Hastings, where Pacific Dragon tackles the Gr.3 HB/PV Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Gold Trail Stakes (1200m).

A winner of three of her 10 starts and second in a further four, Pacific Dragon only went down a nose to Group One winner Lickety Split in the Gr.3 Northland Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) at Ruakaka last start.

She had earlier won the Listed Ryder Stakes (1200m) at Te Rapa and last preparation was relegated after winning the Gr.2 Eclipse Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie leading into her fifth-place finish in the $1 million Karaka Million (1200m) at the same track.

"She's flying. I can't fault her at all. Her work through the week has been fantastic and she's a fit, seasoned filly that's holding her form really well," Pike said.

"Though the heavy track isn't her preferred conditions, she's one that will probably get through it with fitness on her side. That might be her advantage against some of those fillies that are a bit more lightly raced. On her exposed form, she should be hard to beat."

TAB bookmakers have Pacific Dragon as a $3.30 favourite for the Gold Trail Stakes and at $14 to win the Gr.1 Barneswood Farm 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 12.

"We've talked to her owners (Swettenham Stud) and she'll stay right through till the end of the fillies series now and then most likely head to Australia in the autumn. If the rain hangs around, she'll be competitive in anything she'll run in."

Pike's other Hastings entries are Samiam Seussie in the Remember "Jookie" 1200 and Prince Of Tallin and Glorified in the Hastings - Heart of the Hawke's Bay Mile.

"Samiam Seussie has come back in great shape. I'm really happy with her and think she's going to be in for a good season," Pike said.

"They only thing is if they continue to get rain down there and that track looks to be too testing, we may have to pull pin and wait a week.

"Glorified is probably 50-50 to handle a wet track. She galloped in the wet this morning and didn't handle it too well so she may not start. Prince Of Tallin will love the ground and he looks a good chance of getting his share of the prizemoney."

While Pike won't have a runner in the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings, he has set Field Of Gold for the second leg, the Gr.1 Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) at the course on October 1.

"He'll most likely go to Te Rapa next week for the open mile then head to Hastings for the 1600m race as a leadup to the last leg (Gr.1 Livamol Classic over 2040m on October 15)."

Meanwhile, Pike was satisfied with Catalyst's first-up run in Melbourne, for 13th in the Listed Chautauqua Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley last Saturday for jockey Damian Lane, his first run in nearly two years.

"He peaked on his run and Damian looked after him over the final 200m. He said he felt good and he was happy enough that he would take a lot of improvement out of it,” Pike said.

"I can't be there for a lot of the spring so we've moved him over to Mike Moroney's and he'll run under his name in about three weeks time at Sandown.

"If he's just below the best horses over there or he's struggling to get back to his best form, coming back home for the Railway (Gr.1, 1200m) and Telegraph (Gr.1, 1200m) here is still an option." 

Tony Pike Tai Tokerau Cup Hit The Road Jack RIver Run Shaun Phelan Troy Harris Pacific Dragon Samiam Seussie Glorified Prince Of Tallin Catalyst Mike Moroney