Murwillumbah trainer Matthew Dunn is looking...
Top Perth hoop William Pike may be without his star mare Elite Belle in WA’s feature race this weekend but he has jumped aboard another favourite riding Ranger in the 2014 Strickland Stakes.
Pike has been enjoying a stellar autumn – winter season thanks to the ace form of Grant Williams’ talented Canny Lad mare Elite Belle.
She has thrived this preparation at Belmont Racecourse winning the Belmont Sprint – Hyperion Stakes double but has been sent to the paddock ahead of a 2014 Railway Stakes bid in November.
Without her Pike’s still got a chance at securing the big one this Saturday with connections putting him on Testa Rossa seven-year-old Ranger in the $125,000 Group 3 Strickland Stakes (2000m).
Like Elite Belle, the Adam Durrant-trained Ranger is owned by Sandra and Bob Peters.
They are winless since November of 2011 but came very close last time out on June 14 when just a quarter length away second to Elite Belle in the Group 3 Hyperion Stakes (1600m).
Their last victory was in the Group 2 Lee Steer Stakes (1400m) three years ago, Pike aboard for that win.
Now they get their chance to be first past the post over the same track as last start going up to 2000m.
It’s a distance Ranger hasn’t seen since their sixth to Kincaple in last year’s Strickland Stakes when prepared by Elite Belle’s trainer Williams.
Ranger had a similar lead-up 12 months ago too finishing under half a length away third in the Hyperion before their Strickland run with Pike aboard for both races.
With Elite Belle to steal the hoop away, Ranger gets Pike back this year then replacing the horse’s regular rider this preparation Peter Hall who is on suspension.
Hall opted to ride last Saturday at the Belmont Guineas meeting and miss Strickland Stakes Day after copping a two week careless riding ban from a Northam ride back on June 12.
Connections are hoping it isn’t a case of déjà vu and that Ranger handles the step up in distance this weekend.
“The problem is when you think he’s ready, something goes amiss,” owner-breeder Bob Peters, after his first Strickland Stakes win since News Review in 1997, told The West Australian.
“I’ve seen this a dozen times before with him.
“He is now a rising eight-year-old and it is not getting any easier for him.”
Peters other Strickland close calls were Moonlight Bay who finished second last year, Battle Emblem (2nd) in 2012, Star Encounter (3rd) in 2009 and Powerful Prince (2nd) in 1996.
In the latest Strickland Stakes odds the bookies are rating them to do it without issue installing Ranger as the $2.75 favourite.
They’re followed in the markets by four other single figure chances including the Fred Kersley-trained duo of last start winner over 2200m at the track seven days ago Operational ($4.60) and Hyperion third placegetter Grand Nirvana ($7).
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