Top Western Australian jockey William Pike has landed the prize ride in Saturday’s Belmont Oaks, booked to ride classy filly Sweet Serenity in the black-type feature.
The $80,000 Listed Belmont Oaks (2000m) attracted a strong final field this year with 14 starters and two emergencies accepted for the three-year-old fillies’ showdown running at Belmont.
Despite suffering a blow with a wide barrier 12 draw, the Trevor Andrews-trained Pearl Of Love filly Sweet Serenity is still the short-priced favourite to score her maiden stakes win.
Having had nine career starts to date for a hat-trick of wins and as many minor placings, the promising Sweet Serenity stepped up to Listed company for the first time last start on June 25 at Belmont.
Facing an open field for her debut run over the mile, Sweet Serenity ran a beautiful race when finishing just a length away fourth behind winner and Strickland Stakes hopeful The Underworld in the Listed Belmont Guineas (1600m).
For her brave last-to-fourth run in the Guineas Sweet Serenity was ridden by apprentice Kyra Yuill, also aboard for the fillies’ other two most recent runs.
Pike, however, is set to replace Yuill for the Oaks, the Group 1 performing hoop reuniting with Sweet Serenity having been aboard for her two first-up runs this season including a win over 1000m at Belmont on May 7.
“She’s a difficult filly to ride – she doesn’t have a lot of gate speed and always needs luck,” Andrews admitted.
“I think she was a bit unlucky (in the Belmont Guineas) but I certainly wouldn’t condemn Kyra’s ride.”
Having shown good form with the increase in distance and a blistering turn of foot to make up so much ground in the Guineas, connections are now confident that against her own company Sweet Serenity will be hard to beat over 2000m in the Belmont Oaks this weekend.
“The way she races, she looks like she’ll get 2000 (metres) but you can never be over-confident,” Andrews said.
“She settles well and runs on well and I’m looking forward to it.”
Only two other fillies are currently at single-figure odds to upset Sweet Serenity in her Belmont Oaks bid, with Fred Kersley’s Blackfriars filly and Belmont Guineas fifth placegetter Svara to have the rails run from gate one and the Tony Noonan-trained Victoria raider Ladysea with work to do from barrier 10.
The 2011 Belmont Guineas accompanies the $125,000 Group 3 Strickland Stakes (2000m) as the two feature races running at Belmont this Saturday.
Pike also has a strong hand in the Strickland Stakes, partnering with Chris Gangemi’s highly-promising High Chaparral three-year-old The Underworld.
2011 Belmont Oaks Final Field & Barrier Draw
|#||Form (Last 10)||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight|
|1||1X47X13134||SWEET SERENITY||Trevor Andrews||William Pike||12||55kg|
|2||6311114660||JOBETH||Steve Wolfe||Troy Turner||9||55kg|
|3||X40865X115||SVARA||Fred Kersley||Steven Parnham||1||55kg|
|4||2X35603X22||LADYSEA||Tony Noonan||Paul Harvey||10||55kg|
|5||3333X34244||MISS TIPSY TOPSY||Stan Bates||Jason Whiting||11||55kg|
|6||541730X008||PRINCESS VIVIEN||Neville Parnham||Ms Kyra Yuill (a)||2||55kg|
|7||6X3311||THE OTHER HARV||Alan Mathews||Shaun O’Donnell||3||55kg|
|8||030X412512||DEMON QUEEN||Adam Durrant||Peter Hall||15||55kg|
|9||6531408X64||VIARISE||Hana Dickson||Peter Knuckey||16||55kg|
|10||3X06X1||DEPORTMENT||Lindsey Smith||Jason Brown||7||55kg|
|11||472X3409X6||A TRUE BUSINESS||Gavin Foster||Ms Jessica Valas||6||55kg|
|12||X00X495922||LIGHTNING SKY||Colin Webster||Campbell Mc Callum (a)||5||55kg|
|13||07005692||GOLDEN FRIARS||Luke Trew||Duncan Miller (a)||14||55kg|
|14||55||GRAND DETTE||Fred Kersley||Shaun Meeres||8||55kg|
|15e||8X4745||TEDDYS MATE||Norm Pascoe||–||4||55kg|