A determined win in the opening event at Trentham on Saturday may have secured promising New Zealand two-year-old Slipper Island a berth in the team that trainer Tony Pike plans to take to the Queensland Winter Carnival this year.
The son of No Nay Never showed plenty of heart to fight back in the hands of Michael McNab, after being challenged in the straight on Saturday, to defeat Matamata raider Perfectly Suited in the 1200m dash.
A NZD$180,000 purchase by Pike from the Hallmark Stud draft at the 2021 Karaka Yearling Sale, Slipper Island showed he had learnt plenty from his debut defeat at Ellerslie where he was narrowly beaten by subsequent Group 1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) winner Lickety Split.
“He's a pretty laid-back customer who we had contemplated applying blinkers to for Saturday, but we resisted the temptation,” Pike said.
“It was nearly his undoing as he got left alone across the junction when the horse outside dropped away and he started to loaf around a bit.
“Michael said he was still a little green but when the filly came up alongside him near the finish he fought back really well and was holding her comfortably at the finish, with plenty up his sleeve.”
Pike will let the dust settle on the victory before deciding any future plans but indicated that he will be well in consideration for a trip to Brisbane if he comes through the race well.
“It's a long way to Wellington and back for any horse, so he can have a few easy days before we decide anything further for him,” he said.
“If he does go over there and performs well then a late nomination for races like that will be considered.”
Pike made it a winning double at Trentham when lightly raced three-year-old Lebanese Trader took out the second race while promising mare Samiam Seussie went a blinder to secure her first black type placing when finishing third behind Sinarahma and Mai Tai in the Group 3 Cuddle Stakes (1600m).
“It was good to see Lebanese Trader win as he has thrown a couple of races away through greenness and immaturity,” Pike said.
“He was still a little wayward on Saturday but knuckled down well in the closing stages.
“He has promise but we will take it quietly with him as he is going to be a better horse next season.
“It was great to see Samiam Seussie get some valuable black type as she went an absolute cracker in a race where she was badly off in the weights.
“She only received half a kilogram from the winner and runner-up under the set weights and penalties conditions, although she was rated at least 16 points beneath them.
“In a true handicap she would have been far more competitive and may have even won it with the allowance she would have had.
“She is another promising mare, having just her ninth start, so there is plenty ahead of her in the future.”
Pike indicated he would be taking a team of eight to ten horses to Queensland over the winter including three-year-old Tutukaka who had to be late scratched from the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) after suffering from a swollen leg on race morning.
“I will be sitting down and working out who we will be taking to Queensland later next week and at this stage it could be up to ten horses,” he said.
“One of those will be Tutukaka who has recovered from the problem he had that caused him to be scratched before the Derby.
“We treated him with anti-inflammatories that morning and he was as good as gold the next day, so it was pretty disappointing and just bad timing.
“I'm excited about campaigning in Brisbane again this year as we have had some good success there and hopefully, we can replicate that again.”
One horse who won't be heading away is Group 2 Waikato Guineas (2000m) winner Field Of Gold, with Pike advising the three-year-old was destined for the spelling paddock before being prepared to tackle the feature events at the Hastings Spring carnival next season.