Ace Perth jockey William Pike is confident with his mount Elite Belle in Saturday’s 2014 Railway Stakes saying the mare is going “great guns” ahead of the Ascot classic.
Six-time WA jockey premiership winner Pike stays on the Grant Williams-trained Canny Lad six-year-old who is one of a capacity field facing off in this year’s $1 million Group 1 Carlton Draught Railway Stakes (1600m).
Williams launches a triple-pronged attack on the Railway Stakes this year saddling up Elite Belle along with her stable mates Amorino and Respondent.
Of the trio it is the rails-drawn Respondent, coming off a second to Bass Strait in the Group 3 RJ Peters Stakes (1500m) at the track last Saturday, who is the shortest priced in the Railway Stakes odds at Ladbrokes.com.au.
He pays $6 in markets led by the Mick Burles-trained ‘Lion of Longford’ The Cleaner ($4.80).
Amorino, in barrier two, meanwhile is a $21 outsider while Elite Belle sits at single figures paying $7.50 for her and Pike to overcome a wide barrier 16 draw.
Barrier 16 will become gate 12 if all four emergencies in the capacity 16-starter Railway Stakes field come out, and Pike is desperate to finally win the race that has eluded him for so long.
“I have never won it (the Railway Stakes) and I would absolutely love to, so it is definitely an ambition. That goes without saying,” he told The Australian.
She will still need the right run to feature in the finish according to Pike who ideally wants to have her right up front and ready to strike.
“It is going to come down to the run we get in transit with her. If she gets a nice run … she is a really good chance,” Pike added.
“I agree with my manager (Dale Verhagen) that if I am within striking distance, we can win.”
The in-form Elite Belle won the Group 3 Belmont Sprint (1400m) – Group 3 Hyperion Stakes (1600m) double at Belmont Park with Pike aboard in the winter.
She returned to win again first-up with Pike guiding her to a nice win over star sprinter Barakey on October 25 in the Group 3 Prince Of Wales Stakes (1200m).
The run ended however on November 8 when Elite Belle, ridden once again by Pike, could only manage to finish two and a quarter lengths away fourth behind 2014 Winterbottom Stakes hope Magnifisio in the Group 2 Lee Steere Stakes (1400m).
But it is her smart Prince Of Wales win that Pike is hoping she repeats on the weekend and gives him confidence going into the Railway.
The speed was on that day and with devastating front-runner The Cleaner in the mix on Saturday, Pike believes it will again be a truly run race set to suit his mount.
A credible ninth in the Cox Plate before his last start third in the Emirates Stakes over the Flemington mile, there are a few queries regarding The Cleaner and whether he’s come to the end of his campaign.
Pike though is still very wary of the champ and rates him the deserving favourite.
“There is a bit of a query about whether he can hold it together for another run, with the travel on top of the racing he has done,” Pike said.
“But I always play it safe and assume trainers would not bring them across (to Perth) unless they were right.”
Pike also has respect for Elite Belle’s stable mate Respondent, Brad Parnham to ride the Haradasun four-year-old from barrier one.
Parnham replaces Pike in the saddle with the latter having ridden the gelding for all three of his runs this time in.
While Respondent’s form is certainly encouraging and he’s at shorter odds in the Railway Stakes betting markets, Pike is more than happy to be riding the mare.
“I would not swap him for Elite Belle,” he said.
“She is going great guns and her first-up run was brilliant.”
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