IN Racing
Pike’s Tutukaka back in winning groove
Tony Pike will press on with increased confidence toward loftier goals with Tutukaka he returned to winning ways in fine style on Friday.
NZ Racing Desk | December 30, 2022
Taupo Cup (2000m) winner Tutukaka. Photo: Reg Ryan (Racing Photos)

Tony Pike will press on with increased confidence toward loftier goals with Tutukaka after the son of Tavistock returned to winning ways in fine style on Friday.

The Cambridge trainer had expected the four-year-old to prove a hard nut to crack in the Harcourts Taupo Cup (2000m) and he wasn’t disappointed with the gelding’s success.

Tutukaka had been unplaced in his two previous starts this campaign, but he relished the step up to 2000m on a firm deck to deliver the third victory of his career and first on home soil.

“It all played out as we thought and he was third-up so there’s more improvement to come,” Pike said.

“He’ll go to the Karaka Stayers’ Cup (2200m) next at Pukekohe on Karaka Million night and we’ll get through that and then decide where we go.

“There’s obviously going to be a fair few options. As an older horse, he might get 2400m so we might try and sneak him into a nice Cups race at some stage.”

Tutukaka settled four back on the rail before rider Michael McNab took the early opportunity to angle off the fence down the back straight and was on the move 700m from home.

They cornered widest and Tutukaka lengthened stride effortlessly to cruise clear and have 1.8l on longshot Enright at the post with Masetto turning in a much-improved display for third.

“As soon as Michael got him off the fence he never really looked like getting beaten,” Pike said.

Tutukaka’s finished runner-up on debut as a two-year-old at Hastings and an effort that prompted Pike to send him to Queensland.

The move was rewarded with success in the Listed Tatts Stakes (1830m) at Eagle Farm as a two-year-old and the following season he won the Listed Geelong Classic (2200m) before he ran sixth in the Gr.1 VRC Derby (2500m).

On his return home, Tutukaka was runner-up in the Karaka Million Classic (1600m) before he was turned out ahead of his current campaign.

“He’s really maturing after covering a few miles earlier on and he’s going to be a really nice middle-distance horse for the next two or three seasons,” Pike said.

Bred by Marie Leicester, Tutukaka was purchased out of Haunui Farm’s draft at New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sale by Pike, who went to $250,00 to secure the half-brother to 14-time Group One winner Melody Belle.

Pike is part of a sizeable ownership group that also includes Haunui, Waikato Stud, Whakanui Stud and Raffles Racing.

Meanwhile, Academy Award was sent out the shortest-priced favourite of the day and set up a likely return to black type competition when she romped to an effortless victory in the Mort Webber Memorial (1200m).

Academy Award stepped quickly to land outside the leader for rider Michael McNab and, with a minimum of urging, surged clear in the run home to score by 4.3l and reward her army of admirers with a $1.30 winning dividend.

She had finished runner-up two starts back in the Gr.2 James & Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes (1400m) behind Wild Ruler and then finished fourth behind the star Te Akau three-year-old in a competitive age group line-up earlier this month.

“She’s a lovely filly and was the most relaxed she’s been at the races,” trainer Stephen Marsh said.

“We could look at the Desert Gold Stakes (Gr.3, 1600m) and the way she raced today she could well get out to a mile, there’s a few options.”

Marsh also produced Tina Again to claim The Kinloch Country Lodge Trophy (1300m) in her first appearance for the stable and new owners Rosemary Carter and Brett Kendall, who purchased her off for $9,000.

“She’s in foal to Sword Of State so we wanted to get a win or two with her and she was terrific,” Marsh said.

Tina Again led all the way under Wiremu Pinn and was bred by Gerry Harvey’s Westbury Stud, as was Academy Award who was a $180,000 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale graduate.