New Zealand trainer Tony Pike ended a memorable Australian winter campaign on a winning note when Sacred Day (NZ) (Azamour) landed the Listed Grafton Cup (2350m) on Thursday.
Pike will return to his training base at Cambridge to concentrate on New Zealand spring racing after unearthing a genuine staying prospect in Sacred Day to complement his success with The Bostonian (NZ) (Jimmy Choux) who secured a Group One double when winning both the Doomben 10,000 (1200m) and the Kingsford Smith Cup (1300m).
Sacred Day was Pike's last Australian runner before heading home and the four-year-old scored a popular win under hometown jockey Ben Looker.
Coming from midfield on the rail, Sacred Day saved ground to take an inside run on the home turn before beating Sopressa (So You Think) by a long neck.
Vaucluse Bay (Al Maher) was a half head away in the minor placing with the favourite Igraine (Galileo) finishing fourth.
“It has been a super carnival for us,” Pike told Sky Racing.
“This is our last runner and obviously we have been in Queensland for a while so this is a great way to finish.
“It was a great ride from Ben today. I am just rapt for him. It is his first ride for me ever and I was struggling to get a jockey.
“A lot of thanks to my racing manager back in New Zealand, he got Ben on. He is a star jockey here and really enjoyed his home-town win.”
Pike said Sacred Day had the potential to go further after the four-year-old made it four wins from 16 starts.
"I always thought he was a progressive stayer and I think he will go on from here ... we have always held him pretty high regard," Pike said.
Bred by Nick and Anne-Marie King at Brighthill Farm, Sacred Day was knocked down to Cambridge-based breeding operation Raffles Farm, for $90,000 from the Brighthill 2016 Select Sale draft at Karaka.
Sacred Day is the second foal of O’Reilly mare Top Of The Day and comes from an extended family that includes former New Zealand Filly of the Year Mun Lee (NZ) (Great Wall) and Gr.1 South Australian Oaks (2400m) winner, Marmalitre (NZ) (Wolverton).