There's no denying Cambridge trainer Tony Pike's strong personal attachment to a two-year-old he believes is his best chance of winning a Karaka Million yet.
Pike will produce exciting Not A Single Doubt colt Not An Option in Saturday's Gr.2 Platinum Homes Taranaki Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1100m) at Trentham, the unbeaten two-year-old's next step towards a start in the $1 million Karaka Million (1200m) at Ellerslie on January 25.
And while it's the ability that has seen Not An Option win twice at the trials and on debut at Pukekohe in September that is now endearing himself to Pike, he hails from a family the trainer knows well.
About 20 years ago, Pike and his parents Wayne and Vicky bought Imposing mare Seraphic from Masterton breeder Ollie Goodwin and went about developing a family that has since produced the likes of Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m) winner Chenille and Not An Option's dam Chintz, a Savabeel mare who won a Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) at Ellerslie and was twice Group One-placed.
"We bred and raced Chintz ourselves and sold her off the track to Newhaven Park," Pike said.
"They sent her to Snitzel and kept her first filly foal then sent her to Not A Single Doubt and on-sold her to Aquis. Mark Baker and Gordon Cunningham took a half share in the resulting colt and he went through the Curraghmore draft at Karaka, where we bought her."
Pike went to $240,000 for the colt now raced by a partnership that includes Raffles Racing, Waikato Stud and Haunui Farm.
"In his first trial and in his maiden win, he did a lot wrong, but he trialled at Cambridge last week and he did it pretty professionally. He's grown up mentally in a short space of time," Pike said.
"This race fits in perfectly for him and I'd be disappointed if he wasn't right in the fight. Murray Baker's colt (Unition) looks promising on his win at Pukekohe the other day but based on his work and his trial win, this horse should be right in the hunt."
Pike said the gap of four weeks between the Wakefield Stakes and the Gr.2 Barneswood Farm Eclipse Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year's Day was the ideal approach to the Karaka Million three and a half weeks later.
Pike's previous best result in the Karaka Million was Felton Road's third placing in 2017, the trainer hoping Not An Option can better that this season.
"He's probably the best two-year-old type I've had going towards the race. Sacred Elixir ran fifth in his year but he was more a stayer and just did that on ability. This bloke looks like my best chance yet."
TAB bookmakers opened Not An Option as a $3.90 second favourite to Listed Fasttrack Insurance Stakes (1100m) winner Unition at $3.70 for the Wakefield, with last-start winner De La Terre at $4.50 and Tivaan Warrior at $6.50. -NZ Racing Desk