IN Racing
Young stablemates in fine fettle for features
“She is a very progressive filly and has obviously been impressive in her last two runs."
Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | February 21, 2024
Archaic Smile will contest the Gr.2 J Swap Contractors Ltd Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) on Saturday. Photo: Peter Rubery (Race Images Palmerston North)

Two younger members of Tony Pike’s team will spearhead the stable’s representation at Matamata with higher honours beckoning the duo if they race up to expectations.

The Cambridge trainer will chase a two-year-old feature double on Saturday with Archaic Smile in the Gr.2 J Swap Contractors Ltd Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) and Poetic Champion in the Gr.2 Fairview Matamata Slipper (1200m).

Archaic Smile was a debut fifth at Te Rapa before she trekked south to win at Otaki in November and returned to the Central Districts in January to add the Listed Wellesley Stakes (1100m) at Trentham to her record.

“She is a very progressive filly and has obviously been impressive in her last two runs,” Pike said.

“She’s always showed ability and drew a wide gate in her first start and got a bit lost and was green, so it was a pretty good run in what has turned out to be a good form race.”

The Listed Challenge Stakes (1100m) was won by subsequent Karaka Millions 2YO (1200m) winner Velocious while third placegetter Bellatrix Star has since won the Gr.2 Eclipse Stakes (1200m) and run fourth in the Millions.

“Archaic Smile took good improvement from Te Rapa and she has been dominant in her last two,” Pike said.

“If she wins at the weekend or runs extremely well, then she would probably press on to the Sistema (Gr.1, 1200m), that’s the logical option.”

That thinking also applies to Poetic Champion, who romped home on debut at Hawera and placed in the Challenge Stakes and the Gr.2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1100m) before he was a gallant sixth from the outside gate in the Millions at Ellerslie.

“The barrier draw (14) was a bit of a nightmare and we decided to go back, but he still couldn’t get in and sat four wide for the trip,” Pike said.

“Considering the way the track was playing that night and the run he had, you couldn’t have asked for anymore. It was a very genuine effort.

“He had a week in the paddock after that and has come back in really good order and worked well on Tuesday morning.”

Meanwhile, Churchillian produced a career-best effort to win last month’s Gr.3 Anniversary Handicap (1600m) and will contest the Lisa Chittick Plate (1400m).

“She is very honest and had a 10-day freshen-up after Wellington,” Pike said.

“She might be a bit vulnerable on Saturday, but she’s had a great season and she’ll probably head to the Royal Descent Stakes (1600m) after this and possibly the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr.1, 1600m).”

Last season’s Gr.2 Lowland Stakes (2100m) winner Val Di Zoldo is the first emergency for the Listed Matamata Veterinary Services Equine Kaimai Stakes (2000m) and is also in the (2000m) as a back-up.

She was a close last-start fifth in the Listed Wairarapa Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m).

“Off a light weight, I think she’ll be an each-way chance in the Kaimai, but it has come up a bit stronger than I thought so she might miss a run. She’ll be a good chance in the Benchmark 75 and it would be another confidence-builder.”

Cheval D’Or enjoyed a lucrative three-year-old season and will resume off a lengthy break in the Westbury Stud (1400m).

She won the Gr.3 Championship Stakes (2100m) to earn a trip to the Brisbane winter carnival where she finished a respectable seventh in the Gr.1 Queensland Oaks (2200m).

“She’s been off the scene for quite a while. She has trialled up well, but it will obviously be well short of her best and it will be a run to get the show back on the road,” Pike said.

Archaic Smile Tony Pike Poetic Champion Gr.2 J Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders' Stakes Gr.3 Fairview Matamata Slipper Churchillian Val Di Zoldo Cheval D’Or