CHAMPION Western Australian jockey William Pike is back in Bendigo and again on the trail of Group 1 glory.
Pike has headed east for the Melbourne autumn carnival and will again base himself in Bendigo as he did during his successful spring carnival campaign last year.
The Wizard of the West has spent the week in quarantine but will get down to business at Caulfield on Saturday with a trio of Group 1 rides and a further two at Group level.
Four of Pike's rides will be for the leading Western Australian training team of Grant and Alana Williams, who are again basing themselves at Brent Stanley's Cloud 9 Thoroughbreds at Sutton Grange.
He has also picked up the ride on Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes hope Ingratiating for James Cummings.
An early $9 chance behind the hot favourite Enthaar ($2.35), the colt heads to the $1.5m feature in excellent form after a win at Flemington last Saturday.
Pike could not be happier with his book of five rides, which include the Williams-trained quartet of Arcadia Queen in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes, Celebrity Queen (Group 1 Oakleigh Plate), Regal Power (Group 2 Peter Young Stakes) and Perfect Jewel (Group 3 Mannerism Stakes).
The 34-year-old is most excited to renew acquaintances with Arcadia Queen, who notched a pair of Melbourne Group 1s in the spring, and is en route to the $5m All Star Mile at Moonee Valley on March 13.
"Arcadia Queen is definitely our pin-up girl, she won me a Group 1 last time I was here, so I always look forward to riding here," he said.
"She's had a short break since I was last here and just been in normal work, preparing for these races coming up.
"I haven't actually been on the horses yet because I've had to do a one-week quarantine and Racing Victoria's rules are I cannot go near a racing establishment for one week. My last day of that is actually today (Thursday).
"Some of the horses only arrived Monday night, including Arcadia Queen. Perfect Jewel and Celebrity Queen were already here.
"But they are very much in familiar grounds out at Sutton Grange - the only new one is Celebrity Queen, the others have been there a couple of times now. From all reports they have settled in well."
As the newcomer to Sutton Grange, Celebrity Queen has adapted perfectly, according to Pike.
"She's got the right nature - we weren't anticipating any dramas there," he said.
"She has a lovely nature and is a very happy horse. She's happy to do her job.
Pike is confident the four-year-old mare, who is resuming from a nine-week spell after her close second in the Group 3 A.J Scahill Stakes, will acquit herself nicely in her Melbourne debut.
The popular jockey, who is looking to add to his tally of three Melbourne Group 1s, is pleased to be back in Bendigo.
"It's very convenient with the horses being trained not far away," Pike said.
"I'm in the exact same place as before, so everything is pretty familiar."
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