Oaks hope stars on top day for Pike

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  • March 02, 2023
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Val Di Zoldo headlined a stellar day for Tony Pike at Awapuni where she added serious momentum to her preparation for the country’s premier staying feature for fillies.

A first stakes winner for her Inglewood Stud-based stallion War Decree, she was one of three success stories at the Central Districts fixture for the Cambridge trainer when she claimed top honours in the Gr.2 Little Avondale Lowland Stakes (2100m).

Val Di Zoldo, who followed the earlier winning leads of stablemates Field Of Gold and Churchillian, produced a perfect dress rehearsal for the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m), for which she is now an $8 equal favourite.

It was also a memorable victory for successful rider Michael McNab as it provided him with a century of wins for the season in a bid to defend his New Zealand Jockey’s Premiership title won in the 2021/22 term with a tally of 144.

“It all worked out perfectly and it was great to give Michael his 100th winner, we’re great supporters of his and he’s obviously riding in great form,” Pike said.

“It all fits in so well with Chris (McNab’s father) being my assistant trainer so it was good to win a race like that.”

Val Di Zoldo jumped well and settled on the leader Contagious’ quarters and in the closing stages wore down the pacemaker, who fought on gallantly for second with Pennyweka making late ground for third.

“I probably didn’t want to ride her that close, but with a couple of scratchings the speed dropped out of the race,” Pike said.

“I said to Michael to use the draw and be positive into the first corner and then work it out from there.

“She’s a versatile filly who can sit back off a hot tempo or race on speed on a slow tempo and she relaxes well, she’s a very laid-back filly.”

Val Di Zoldo has been a genuine performer and performed admirably in strong age group company before she broke her maiden earlier this month over 1800m at Taupo.

“She’s been a promising filly all the way through and finished close up behind some good ones through her preparation,” Pike said.

“She’s going to the right level at the right time and she looks great.

“The timing has been perfect and Michael said she waited for them a touch when she got to the front, but she was strong through the line and it’s looking promising going toward the Oaks.”

Val Di Zoldo was purchased out of Valachi Downs’ gavelhouse.com dispersal sale for $285,000.

Pike was also delighted to see Field Of Gold, who won the Gr.2 Waikato Guineas (2000m) last season and finished third in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), back in winning form in the Per Incanto Handicap (1400m).

“It was one of those things in the spring with wet tracks and sometime three-year-olds don’t come up at four,” he said.

“He probably had a couple of hard runs on wet tracks that took the edge off him.

“I thought he would win today, his trial had been very good and he did it well so onwards and upwards with him how now we’ve hopefully got him back to his best.”

The lightly raced Churchillian also bounced back to post her second career victory from four outings when she was successful in the Power Farming/Richard Simpson Contracting 3YO (1400m).

“She’s a bit under-rated and is a really tough filly. She was a bit disappointing at Te Rapa, but some are there with the kick back.

“She landed right there, but never travelled from the 600m. Her work since had been sensational and she is just a good, honest filly who will only improve.”

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