Perth’s premier jockey Williams Pike will ride Elite Belle in the Group 1 $500,000 TAB Touch – Kingston Town Classic (1800m) at Ascot on Saturday after the mare got the nod over stablemate Ranger.
Pike has selected the lightly-raced five year old mare over the more experienced Ranger more on potential than ability but is certain she is up to the Group 1 standard.
“I like younger horses on the way up,” Pike told The West Australian.
“I know at the end of the day she will have tried as hard as I will have to win the race.
“In truth, Ranger probably has the edge on her in ability, but it can be hard to get it out of him.
“She is new on the scene and she deserves her chance.
“Her best win was first-up, and she should have won the Peters.
“Last start was a consolation and she did what she had to do to win.”
Pike has been aboard Elite Belle at all her four starts this campaign and was impressed with her first up win in restricted class over 1400m at Ascot on October 19.
Elite Belle then ran second over 1400m at Ascot again before finishing an unlucky second to Kerrific in the Group 3 $125,000 R.J. Peters Stakes (1500m) at Ascot on November 16.
Pike claims the mare should have won the R.J. Peters stakes after being held up for a run in the straight and the stewards report verified that stating that Elite Belle was blocked for clear running for the entire length of the straight as well as accidently being struck over the head with the whip of another rider at the 200m mark.
Trainer Grant Williams is ready to test Elite Belle against the top grade in the Kingston Town Classic after winning the Listed $100,000 Carbine Of W.A. Stakes (1400m) at Ascot on November 23 and Pike knows that she will acquit herself well.
Pike has also been the regular rider for Ranger throughout his career and even though the seven year has won a Group 2 race and has been placed at Group1 level, the seven year old hasn’t been in the winner’s stall since taking out the Group 2 $200,000 Waroa-Lee Steere Stakes (1400m) at Ascot during the 2011 Perth Summer Carnival.
And two starts later Ranger ran a career best race when second to Playing God in that year’s Kingston Town Classic.
Pike was down to ride Ranger last Saturday week in the Group 1 $1m Carlton Draught – Railway Stakes (1600m) at Ascot but the gelding was sensational scratched by stewards on race day when strapper Paul Dyson was observed rubbing a substance from a bottle marked vanilla essence over the nostrils and mouth of Ranger in the saddling stalls.
Jarrad Noske will take over the reins on Ranger while apprentice Chris Parnham will ride Williams’ third Kingston Town Classic runner Moonlight Bay.
Last start Group 1 Railway Stakes winner Luckygray remains the favourite for the Kingston Town Classic at $2.60 in front of Mr Moet at $4.40 and Ihtsahymn at $5.50 while Elite Belle is marked as a $15 chance in front of stablemates Ranger at $21 and Moonlight Bay at $41.