PHOTO: William Pike (R) is feeling confident ahead of Saturday’s Perth Cup. (ABC News: Kearyn Cox)
Leading jockey William Pike is hoping to ride into the record books at Ascot Racecourse on Saturday as he chases a third Perth Cup win.
An annual fixture since 1887, the Cup is run over 2,400 metres with $500,000 in prize money.
The New Year’s Eve event is widely regarded as WA’s marquee thoroughbred racing event of the year.
After a year of early morning starts, Pike rode home enough winners to break the longstanding WA record of most first place wins in a season (116.5 wins), a record previously held by WA Racing Hall of Fame member Paul Harvey.
Pike, 30, credits his record-breaking efforts to staying fit.
“The record season I have had, I can credit to keeping healthy and on the track. I didn’t get a suspension all year, those things go a long way, I was always there and rarely missed a race meeting so I was able to accumulate wins,” he said.
Pike is feeling well-rested and in good form heading in to the Cup after serving a two-week suspension for carelessly riding his Cup mount Perfect Reflection to victory in the Cox Stakes.
He has already equalled legend Damien Oliver as a two-time Cup winner, but says a third on Saturday would be the “icing on the cake” after his record-breaking year.
“It caps off the year for me, it means everything. It may not be a sparkling Group One, but it still means an awful lot to win because of the atmosphere,” he said.
“It’s definitely one of the better tracks in Western Australia. Nothing can compete with the atmosphere you get at Ascot.”
Pike taking place among WA greats
A third Cup win would cement Pike’s position as one of WA’s best jockeys, but Pike said it was strange to be mentioned alongside racing royalty such as Oliver and Harvey.
“It does not feel right really,” he said.
“When I grew up I always wanted to be like them and do what they have done [but] I think I have been lucky with my support and the way things have fallen.
“It honestly feels strange to be mentioned alongside names like that.”
Ironically, Pike would already have his third Perth Cup if he had not changed horse days ahead of last year’s event.
Pike and his mount Neverland frustratingly finished second behind the horse he switched from, Delicacy, but he said he would do the same thing again.
And while he does not believe in luck charms, he said his pre-race ritual included eating two eggs on toast before every race meeting.
Successful partnership with jockey-turned-trainer
Pike’s most wins have coincidentally come in partnership with trainers Grant and Alana Williams.
Alana Williams herself was a successful jockey and said she gave Pike some advice when he was an apprentice.
“I was a senior jockey, he was coming through, he asked for a couple of pointers with his whip and things like that. He got good at it pretty quick,” Williams said.
“Pike is a real horseman, he’s got great balance and knows how to put a horse through its gears in a race better than anyone. He can get the best out of horses without overly using a whip.”
Pike has aspirations to do even better in 2017 than he did this year.
“I’ve set myself a goal of trying to ride a hundred metropolitan winners, I’ve only been able to do that once and I would love to do that again,” he said.
“My ultimate goal is to be the best I can be and win as many races as I can.”