Champion jockey William Pike is confident he has a great opportunity of extending his dominance in the Schweppes WA Derby (2400m) at Ascot on Saturday.
Pike is vying for his 10th WA Derby success and fourth in succession when he carries the hopes of punters with raging hot favourite, Western Empire.
The Grant and Alana Williams-trained Iffraaj gelding heads into the Group 2 race in ripping form after a winning a Listed trifecta.
Chris Parnham steered home Western Empire in the Lex Piper Stakes (1600m) and Roberts Stakes (1800m) before Pike took control in the Melvista Stakes (2200m).
Western Empire is the $1.30 Tabtouch favourite in the WA Derby with Outback Jack, runner-up in the Melvista Stakes, the only other runner in single figure odds ($9).
Western Empire has drawn the outside gate in the field of 10 runners, but Pike says although it’s not the best starting position, he’s still the right horse to be on.
“Obviously it’s not the greatest of alleys, it makes it a little tricky, but he is the right horse to be on,” Pike told Tabradio.
“As long as I can get him to relax in the middle stages at some point you know he will be finishing strong.
“He should relax, he’s been relaxing well considering early on he used to be a bit fiery. He’s been a lot better.
“I don’t want to take it for granted, I want to make sure I get him in and switched off so that he can attack the line late.”
Pike’s supremacy in the WA Derby commenced with Cat’s Fun in 2006. He later followed up on Grand Journey (2008), Dreamaway (2011), Respondent (2014), Delicacy (2015), Arcadia Dream (2016), Action (2018), Regal Power (2019 and Tuscan Queen (2020).
Meanwhile Pike says he has mixed emotions about the imminent retirement of glamour mare Arcadia Queen, announced by owner-breeder Bob Peters on Tabradio on Tuesday.
A winner of eight races including three at Group 1 and nearly $4 million in prize money, Pike says Arcadia Queen, a daughter of Pierro, was the best horse he’s been associated with.
“The best horse I’ve had an association with,” Pike said.
“Without doubt the best horse I have ridden.
“The Kingston Town victory as a three-year-old was one of the most dominant displays you will see in a Group 1.”