Tony Pike expects to be training Victoria Derby 2016 favourite Sacred Elixir for some time to come but is resigned to the fact he may eventually lose him.
Raffles Racing, which owns Sacred Elixir, has sold a share to Eric Chen who wants to race Sacred Elixir in Hong Kong with a view to the 2018 Derby.
Losing horses to other trainers is something New Zealander Pike has become used to, watching from across the Tasman as Chris Waller prepared Sacred Falls to win two Doncaster Miles.
But for now, the New Zealand lifestyle suits Pike and his young family and he is happy to travel back and forth with horses he believes are up to Australian standards.
And Sacred Elixir has already proved that with his Group One win in the J J Atkins in Brisbane in June and his two Group wins from three starts in Melbourne this spring including the Vase at Moonee Valley last Saturday.
“I know it’s a possibility he will go to Hong Kong but it depends on how he performs tomorrow and then in the autum,” Pike said.
“I’m hoping I can keep him.”
Pike has him in great order for Saturday’s $1.5 million Derby (2500m) and the gelding is the $2.70 favourite.
“I’ve never backed him up this quickly before but he’s a horse who enjoys what he does and hasn’t turned a hair,” Pike said.
“There is a bit of pressure with a horse which is a short-priced favourite for a race like this.
“But he is bred to do it.”
Sacred Elixir is by Coolmore stallion Pour Moi, who has returned to Windsor Park Stud in New Zealand this season, and is out of Baltika, a granddaughter of Horlicks who produced 2000 Melbourne Cup winner Brew.
Hong Kong-based Australian Zac Purton, who was aboard for the Atkins win, will be reunited with Sacred Elixir after Damian Lane rode him in his past three starts.
“Damian knew the situation that if the Hong Kong Jockey Club released Zac to come, he would ride,” Pike said.
While Pike is happy to travel back and forth from New Zealand, he made the decision that it wasn’t in the best interests of Sacred Elixir to go home to the winter cold after his Group One win.
“He had a three-week spell in Brisbane and was very well looked after,” Pike said.
Murray Baker is one New Zealand trainer who makes a habit of winning races in Australia including the 2010 Derby with Lion Tamer.
Now in partnership with Andrew Forsman, Baker will send out Highlad to be ridden by Craig Williams who picked up the mount when Damien Oliver failed to have a suspension reduced.