One of Perth’s top jockeys William Pike has opted to ride Grant Williams’ in-form mare Elite Belle over her male stablemate Ranger in this Saturday’s 2013 Kingston Town Classic.
Pike was given the option by Karnup horseman Williams over which of the two gallopers he would partner with this weekend at Ascot Racecourse in the calendar year’s final Group 1 down under, the $500,000 Kingston Town Classic (1800m).
A total of 11 gallopers make up the Kingston Town Classic final field this year, Williams to saddle-up a three pronged attack in the weight-for-age classic.
The best fancied of his trio in the pre-barrier draw Kingston Town Classic odds at a quote of around $18 is Canny Lad mare Elite Belle who Pike will stay on for a shot at the Group 1.
The five-year-old has been in outstanding form this season running first or second in all four of her starts.
After her close second to Kerrific third-up in the Group 3 R.J. Peters Stakes (1500m) on November 16 when blocked for a run, Elite Belle and Pike combined the following Saturday to score a nice one and a quarter length victory in the Listed Carbine Club of WA Stakes (1400m).
Now Elite Belle will step up for her maiden Group 1 assignment in the Kingston Town with Pike, who has ridden her for nine of her 14 runs, in the saddle again.
“I like younger horses on the way up,” Pike told The West Australian this week.
“I know at the end of the day she will have tried as hard as I will have to win the race.
“She is new on the scene and she deserves her chance.
“Her best win was first-up, and she should have won the Peters.
“Last start was a consolation and she did what she had to do to win.”
An equal chance in the Kingston Town Classic betting markets is then Ranger, the Testa Rossa seven-year-old another of Pike’s regular mounts.
Last seen in the winners’ stall for their 2011 Group 2 Lee Steere Stakes win over two years ago, the gelding has been in good form this time in.
After a first-up fourth to Barakey in the Group 3 Prince Of Wales Stakes (1200m) in their first run since June, Ranger went on to cross under half a length away third behind Conservatorium in this year’s Lee Steere on November 9.
Pike was aboard for both rides but will be replaced on Saturday by Perth Cup winning jockey Jarrad Noske who rides the horse for the first time.
Ranger has contested the past three Kingston Town Classics with Pike aboard.
They ran fifth to Playing God in 2010, came within a length of success when runner-up to the same galloper the next year before their disappointing 12th to Luckygray 12 months ago.
Pike however believes Elite Belle is a better chance to hand him his first Kingston Town Classic win this year after Ranger’s interrupted prep saw them miss the Railway Stakes the Saturday before last.
“In truth, Ranger probably has the edge on her (Elite Belle) in ability, but it can be hard to get it out of him,” Pike said.
Ranger may have missed the Railway but they proved their fitness on Monday with a winning Lark Hill trial over 1450m instead.
Williams’ third and roughest Kingston Town Classic hope meanwhile is Moonlight Bay, a Chris Parnham ride paying around $31 in the markets.
The six-year-old Catbird mare won the Listed Ascot Gold Cup over this track and distance two back before her last start fourth crossing under two lengths off Black Tycoon in the Listed Tattersall’s Cup (2100m) on November 23.
Despite her nice lead-up form Moonlight Bay is not fancied to appreciate dropping back in distance again having already seen the 2100m this prep and is perhaps considered a better chance for the $400,000 Group 2 Perth Cup (2400m) on New Year’s Day.
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