NEW Zealand raider Sacred Elixir has picked up his game in the past week, giving trainer Tony Pike the confidence to rate him hard to beat in the Group 1 Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas (1600m).
The Cambridge trainer admits his Caulfield Guineas Prelude (Group 3, 1400m) winner is still green, but is pleased with the progress the gelding is making.
"He's got the perfect barrier (seven) and his work on Tuesday morning was really good for him,” Pike told Stuff's New Zealand racing desk.
"He worked solo and it was the most professional he's been since arriving in Melbourne.
"He had worked left-handed at home, but had two jump-outs at Flemington and was quite awkward getting around the corner.
"But he's becoming more used to the left-hand way of going now and learning all the time. He's been a lot better this week. He's beaten the best Melbourne colts over 1400m and he will be better over a mile.
"He has to meet the good Sydney colts as well this week, but given luck in the running we would be disappointed if he couldn't run in the top three.”
A dominant winner of the JJ Atkins (Group 1, 1600m) at Eagle Farm in June in his last run before a spell, Sacred Elixir was a comfortable winner first-up of the Guineas Prelude on September 24.
Pike admits to being surprised by the win, having expected the left-hand way of going on the relatively tight Caulfield circuit to possibly present difficulties.
"It was good to see him travel a bit closer to the speed and do it comfortably in the Prelude. He's a horse with a very good turn of foot and a strong finish, so it's a good combination to have,” Pike told sportingnews.com.
"He's had a look at Caulfield and the extra 200m on Saturday will suit, although I wish it was 2000m.”
Given Sacred Elixir's stout breeding, Pike expects the 2500m of the Group 1 Victoria Derby to suit even better, but the gelding remains an entry for Australasia's weight-for-age championship, the WS Cox Plate (2040m).
If the gelding were to win the Caulfield Guineas in dominant fashion, the Cox Plate would be considered depending on how the horse was going, Pike has said.
SYDNEY superstar Winx will start a prohibitively short favourite in the Ladbrokes Stakes, having scared off most opposition.
Quoted at between $1.15 and $1.20 yesterday, the unbeaten mare has only two rivals, Black Heart Bart (about $4.60) and He Or She ($26), after seven horses were nominated for the race.
Winx is chasing her 12th straight win and eighth Group 1 victory.
A race for three-year- olds, the Caulfield Guineas has been won by legends of the turf including Tulloch, Vain, Ajax, Luskin Star, Red Anchor, Manikato and Surround.
Since 2000, seven winners have come through the Group 3 Caulfield Guineas Prelude.
Barriers one to eight have provided 22 of the past 31 winners, and eight of the past 14 winners have drawn barriers one to four.
Only four horses have won the Caulfield Guineas/ WS Cox Plate double: Star Affair in 1965, Rajah Sahib in 1968, the filly Surround in 1976 and Red Anchor in 1984.
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