Kiwi horseman Tony Pike is hoping to win a Melbourne Cup 2015 ballot-exemption race with his classy mare Rock Diva this spring giving her the chance to run in the world’s richest handicap on the first Tuesday of November.
A rising five-year-old daughter of Lucky Unicorn, Rock Diva has had three previous runs down under when as a three-year-old she ran fourth in both the Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2400m) and Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) behind Tinto and Sonntag respectively in Brisbane.
Last campaign she raced exclusively back home in New Zealand and rounded out a top preparation with a three-quarter length victory over King Kamada in the Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m) at Ellerslie in March.
Now her Cambridge-based trainer Pike is hoping to get her into another famous two mile showdown, the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington Racecourse on November 3, on the radar.
A winner of three of her 15 starts to date, Rock Diva may be a Group 1 winner over 3200m back home, but Pike knows the challenge of making the capacity 24-starter Melbourne Cup field is still real.
Hoping to get her into the mix, he plans to run in one of the races offering a Melbourne Cup ballot exemption to the winner.
One such race that was only recently announced as a Melbourne Cup exemption is the $300,000 Group 1 The Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington on October 4.
“It will be difficult to place her into the Melbourne Cup with her rating so we’ll have to try and win one of the exemption races on the way through,” Pike told the NZ Racing Desk.
That race could make up part of an all-Australian spring campaign for Rock Diva, whose campaign will be determined by where the firm ground can be found.
“We’re working through the various options as she’s very weather dependent, she doesn’t like bad ground,” Pike said.
“There’s every possibility she will go straight over there (to Melbourne).”
Aside from The Bart Cummings, other possible Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival targets for Rock Diva include the $200,000 Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield Racecourse on October 10, the lucrative $300,000 Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400m), $250,000 Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup (2500m) on Cox Plate Day or the $240,000 Listed Bendigo Cup (2400m) four days later.
For now though Pike is just hoping to see the classy mare bring her A-game again after such a strong autumn.
“She’s been back in work for a couple of months,” he said.
“She’s done the base work and she’ll have a bit more pressure put on her in the next month.
“The only question mark on her is how she comes up in the spring, her best form has been in the autumn.”
Another New Zealand-trained mare on track for a Melbourne Cup bid is Pondarosa Miss.
Peter Hollinshead’s daughter of High Chaparral is set to race at home before her possible trip down under where she’ll target both the Melbourne Cup as well as the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 24.
To check out the early Melbourne Cup betting odds and options before nominations close early next month, visit Ladbrokes.com.au where first time depositing players were rewarded with up to $500 in bonus bets!