New Zealand horseman Tony Pike is pleased with the recent Melbourne work of his Queensland Oaks winning filly Provocative who kicks off her 2016 Caulfield Cup campaign in the Heatherlie Stakes this weekend.
The Zabeel mare has won four of her seven career starts to date, a consistent record the now four-year-old will be out to add to on Saturday at Caulfield Racecourse in the $120,000 Listed Heatherlie Stakes (1700m).
Last season Provocative, prepared by Pike at Cambridge, travelled down under for a raid on the Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival.
She won first-up at Ipswich as the odds-on favourite before extending the winning streak to take out the Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2400m) over the mile and a half at Eagle Farm on June 11 by an impressive three lengths.
All is going well ahead of her new season return this weekend including a glowing report from jockey Damien Oliver who rode her in an important piece of work at Flemington on Tuesday morning and retains the mount first-up on Saturday.
“Damien was at Flemington to gallop her first thing this morning and was happy with her,” Pike told Racenet on Tuesday.
“She’s retained a good bit of residual fitness from Queensland. She had a nice break up there and then some pre-training.”
A solid jump-out at Flemington last Friday convinced Pike to bring Provocative back earlier than scheduled with her original first-up run set as the Group 2 Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on September 3.
“Damien rode her and was happy with her. Saturday’s race is a handicap and gives us three weeks into the Naturalism so we felt that suits her better,” he said.
“The jump out was really a day out for her – she followed them around and it was a nice easy time, she pulled up clean which is the main thing.”
The $150,000 Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000m) takes place back at Caulfield on September 17 and offers a ballot exemption to the winner for the $3 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 15.
Pike has Provocative aimed at the Caulfield Cup this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, the mare at a current pre-field price of $17 through Ladbrokes.com.au to win.
“Saturday’s race is short of her best distance but it looks a nice race for her to kick off the spring,” he said.
“Fresh up, I’m expecting her to settle back and then finish the race off well and then it’s onto the Naturalism.”
She occupies the second line of pre-field Caulfield Cup betting with the likes of Aidan O’Brien’s 2015 Cox Plate third placed Irish raider Highland Reel, last year’s third placegetter Our Ivanhowe, last start ATC Derby winning Kiwi Tavago and the Ed Dunlop-trained Caulfield Cup runner-up last spring Trip To Paris.
Markets are led narrowly by Mick Price’s Victoria Derby – Rosehill Guineas winning Tavistock stallion Tarzino ($15) who returns to racing on Saturday in the $500,000 Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m).
Tavago is also kicking off his spring bid in the Memsie Stakes on the weekend at weight-for-age.
The $6 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 1 is also on the cards for Provocative if she shows up early in her preparation.
Back your Caulfield selections this weekend and over the spring at the right price online through Ladbrokes.com.au – home of Odds Boost (T&Cs apply).