The Pike Effect: The legend builds

5 min read
William Pike's legendary status with Australian punters grew even greater with his quartet of winners on G1 Railway S. day at Ascot.

Australia's leading rider in terms of winners for each of the past four seasons, William Pike has the numbers to match any jockey but his reputation often suffers from suggestions he is a big fish in a small pond.

But while some may doubt where he sits in terms of the nation's best, there is little doubt of his place in the popularity stakes after his extraordinary quartet of winners on one of Western Australia's biggest racing days.

Pike's cult figure status, earned through his endless stream of winners and enhanced by the late-afternoon timing of Perth racing on the eastern seaboard, is unlike any other jockey in Australia.

It has spawned the #backpikedrinkwhatyoulike hashtag that permeates social media on racedays.

It is something that harks back to another era as every week he holds the hopes of a punting nation in his hands.

On Saturday he took it to a whole new level, riding four of the final five winners at Ascot, including as good a Group 1 ride as you would ever see to get Galaxy Star (Redoute's Choice) home in the Railway S. at Ascot.

By the time he carried Royal Statue (Statue Of Liberty {USA}) to a thrilling win in the final race, Ascot was in a state of Pike-induced delirium.

All four of the wins were in the iconic pink and white crossed sashes of Bob Peters and all of them were beautiful in their own way.

It started with Mississippi Belle (High Chaparral {Ire}), who he brought from midfield to a 2l win in the Listed Tattersall's Cup. He then gave star filly Arcadia Queen (Pierro) a perfect run just behind the leaders in the G2 WA Guineas before she romped away to win by 3l.

An inside barrier and a slow start made his task on Galaxy Star look forlorn at the 800m mark of the Railway, but he found the right horse to track through the field and by the top of the straight, only 400m later, he was in the prime position for the 6-year-old mare to pounce and win the $1 million race.

William Pike salutes in the G1 Railway S., aboard Galaxy Star

He then delivered an unexpected dessert for his legion of fans, when the well-backed Royal Statue launched late between horses to defeat Patrick Carberry on Moet de Vega (Lope De Vega). When the result was confirmed on course, the crowd erupted.

An enduring partnership

Nobody is better placed to assess Pike's career than Peters. Jack Cockell, Pike's first master, introduced the pair when Pike was just 15, only 12 months after he set foot on a racecourse for the first time.

Less than 15 years later, they have formed one of the most famous owner-jockey partnerships in Australian racing.

"He's just natural. He rides on instinct, he rides long, very old fashioned I suppose and stays on." - Bob Peters on William Pike

Grant Williams, Sandra Peters, William Pike and Bob Peters

"When he was an apprentice, his master Jack Cockell said he had a young fella coming along that he thought had some potential and that I should have a look at him and we started to use him as an apprentice," Peters told Thoroughbred Weekly on Sunday,

"He actually won a Perth Cup for me when he was 16, on Crown Prosecutor (Grand Lodge {USA}) (in 2005)."

"He's just natural. He rides on instinct, he rides long, very old fashioned I suppose and stays on."

Compared to the best

It is that old-fashioned style, with his foot right through the irons, that has seen Pike compared with one of the legends of the Western Australian turf in Frank Treen, the eight-time WA premier jockey who dominated the post-war period.

As a natural horseman who grew up on ponies, there is also the inevitable comparisons between Pike and Australia's leading jockey Hugh Bowman.

Former hoop Ron Dufficy has seen many of the greats and was left in awe with what we saw on Saturday,

"He goes about his job and gets it done. He rides on instinct, there's not much planning goes into it and he does what he has to do." - Ron Dufficy

"He has got great instincts. He reads the race so well and he knows what he's following and he anticipates a situation even before it unfolds," Dufficy told Sky.

Peters said perhaps Pike's greatest asset was his willingness to follow his instincts.

"He goes about his job and gets it done. He rides on instinct, there's not much planning goes into it and he does what he has to do," he said.

"Every now and then he tells me he is doing some form and I say stop doing that!"

A treble for the ages beckons

Pike and Peters are one third into completing what would be one of the more remarkable feats in WA racing history.

In next Saturday's G1 Winterbottom S. Pike rides leading hope Enticing Star (Testa Rossa) for Peters and trainer Adam Durrant.

A winner of eight of her nine starts, the 5-year-old mare is considered the leading local sprinter but almost overcome last year's winner Viddora (I Am Invincible).

Should Enticing Star salute, then Pike has an interesting quandary.

Peters confirmed on Sunday that both Railway S. winner Galaxy Star and WA Guineas winner Arcadia Queen would head to the G1 Kingston Town Classic on December 8.

William Pike aboard Galaxy Star

Arcadia Queen has proven herself the leading 3-year-old in WA and would carry just 50kg in the Kingston Town, while Galaxy Star would carry a slightly more attainable 57kg.

"He'll have to make a decision very quickly, because if he goes to Arcadia Queen, he'll have to lose some weight," Peters said about Pike.

It’s a decision which could make or break Pike's shot at a rare piece of history.