Chenille delivers perfect get well message Thu, 16 Mar 2017

Dennis Ryan
Chenille unwittingly pokes her tongue at her Auckland Cup opposition as Leith Innes takes her to any easy win in the big Ellerslie two-miler.
Chenille unwittingly pokes her tongue at her Auckland Cup opposition as Leith Innes takes her to any easy win in the big Ellerslie two-miler.
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Tony Pike delivered the perfect get well message to his hospitalised father Wayne when he saddled up Chenille to win the country’s premier staying race, the $500,000 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup, at Ellerslie this afternoon.

The big mare’s dominant victory capped a roller-coaster week for the Pike family, beginning with the postponement of Saturday’s originally scheduled Cup day programme. On Monday Wayne Pike underwent cancer surgery in Hamilton’s Braemar Hospital and this afternoon he, wife Vicki and grandchildren Molly and Oliver watched the Ellerslie action unfold via Trackside TV.

“When the rain started on Friday we thought we had done our chips,” Tony Pike recalled. “The postponement to today put us back in the game and the weather played its part to give us the track she needed.

“Wayne had been all set to come to the races on Saturday and then the first thing he said when they postponed was that he might still be able to get out of his hospital bed and be here today.

“There was no chance of that – it was a big operation and he only got out of ICU yesterday, but this is great, it will have done him a power of good.”

Chenille, who became the fifteenth Group One winner sired by veteran stallion Pentire, was bred by Tony, his wife Kirsten and Wayne and Vicki Pike and is raced by them in partnership with old friends Graeme and Jackie Capes.

The other key contributor to the big win was jockey Leith Innes, who had wasted hard all last week to make Chenille’s 53-kilogram handicap and then had to remain on light rations for another five days.

The saving grace for Innes was that Chenille gave him an armchair ride – albeit a little keen – on the way to her three-quarter-length win over fellow lightweight mare El Pistola. Innes had his mount travelling sweetly one out in midfield before easing her into the clear with 800 metres to run.

Already the $3.90 favourite, it was clear she was the horse to beat as she loped up wide out on the turn and with her tongue hanging out the left side of her jaw, she kept going resolutely for a convincing win.

“She over-raced in the run but she always felt strong,” said Innes. “I had no option but to let her roll into it and even though she got to the front sooner than I would have liked, she always had them covered.

“Wins like this make it all worthwhile and it’s great for the Pikes, who have been such big supporters for me.”

Tokoroa mare El Pistola was game in defeat after making the early running and then racing in a trail, while even braver was third placegetter Jacksstar, who ran all the way to the line but pulled up with a bowed tendon.