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Pike hoping Group One run continues in Oaks

Loire winning the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m). Photo: Race Images South
Loire winning the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m). Photo: Race Images South

Cambridge trainer Tony Pike knows his Group One winning filly Loire has got her work cut out to turn the tables on quality rival Jennifer Eccles when the pair clash again in the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m).

But he is confident the daughter of Redoute’s Choice will be suited by the extended distance at Trentham on Saturday and has timing on her side.

Loire has clashed with the Shaune Ritchie-trained Jennifer Eccles on five occasions and has beaten the $1.95 Oaks favourite home in three of those five contests.

However, the last two clashes have gone the way of Jennifer Eccles, who has displayed a superior turn of foot in both the Gr.2 Lowland Stakes (2100m) and Gr.2 Fillies Classic (2000m) to dominate her rivals.

“We have targeted Loire to peak on Saturday so it wouldn’t surprise me if she finished a lot closer than her last two starts,” Pike said. “Her work has been super this week.

“A mile and a half around Trentham is a lot different to 2000m around Hawke’s Bay and Te Rapa.”

Pike knows what it takes to win the New Zealand Oaks, having prepared More Than Sacred to win in 2013 when training in partnership with Mark Donoghue. 

“Loire has a touch of class, she won the New Zealand 1000 Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m) and as long as she sees out the mile and a half, which I think she will, then I think she will be one of my better chances of winning another Oaks.”

While the Lowland and Fillies Classic have been sit-and-sprint races, Pike is expecting there to be more speed on in the full field on Saturday.

The astute trainer felt there were similarities with the New Zealand Derby (Gr.1, 2400m) which was billed as a match race between Two Illicit and Dragon Leap but was ultimately won by the Pike-trained Sherwood Forest, who proved the superior stayer.

“Going through the field I think there are a couple that will roll forward and try and make it a staying test as their only chance, just like in the Derby.

“I think it will be a lot truer run race than it has been in the past couple (of fillies’ races).

“Jennifer Eccles is obviously an exceptional filly, but taking the even money is a bit short considering the race it is and especially from the wide gate (19).

“The same query could be asked of Loire (barrier 15) with her first go at a mile and a half. Sometimes those fillies with a little bit of brilliance struggle to get the distance.

“It is quite an intriguing race with the way the barrier draw has come out it has evened up the field a little bit more than what it was probably going to.”

Bred by Trelawney Stud and raced by principals Brent and Cherry Taylor in partnership with their good friend Kate Plaw, Loire is in contention for a trip across the Tasman should she perform well, with Oaks options in Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane. 

Pike will be looking to keep the good times rolling, having trained Group One winners over the past two weekends, with Sherwood Forest (New Zealand Derby) and The Bostonian (Canterbury Stakes, 1300m).

“The Bostonian has bounced through his win really well. I couldn’t be happier with him and he will take his place in the George Ryder (Gr.1, 1500m) on Saturday week,” Pike said.

“There will be a change of rider. Nash (Rawiller) had already committed himself to Dreamforce and couldn’t get a release so James McDonald will ride him.

“We will see how he goes in the George Ryder. That last race didn’t seem to take a lot out of him. If he happens to run well in the George Ryder there is a chance he will stay in Sydney and run in the All Aged Stakes (Gr.1, 1400m) three weeks later.”– NZ Racing Desk