CHAMPION Western Australian jockey William Pike and trainer Grant Williams' stays in the Bendigo region are off to a winning start.
Pike and Williams celebrated Group 1 success together in the $500,000 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield on Saturday.
The pair had to be content to share the spoils after their horse Celebrity Queen deadheated with the Matt Laurie-trained three-year-old colt Portland Sky, who was ridden by apprentice Teo Nugent.
The win capped a solid first meeting back in Victoria since last year's spring carnival for Williams, who has again based himself at Brent Stanley's Cloud 9 Thoroughbreds, and Pike, who is staying in Bendigo.
The pair picked up a pair of seconds in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) with Aracdia Queen and the Group 3 Mannerism Stakes (1400m) with Perfect Jewel.
A fourth Williams-trained runner Regal Power finished ninth in the Group 3 Peter Young Stakes (1800m).
Pike was unlucky not to pick up another Group 1 victory, having to settle for another second aboard the James Cummings-trained Ingratiating in the $1.5m Blue Diamond Stakes behind Artorius.
The 34-year-old had to endure a nervous wait before clinching his fourth Victorian Group 1 win after the judge took at least five minutes to decide he could not separate Celebrity Queen and Portland Sky in the Oakleigh Plate, but was understandably rapt post-race.
"With the day I'm having I'm pretty happy to share one, the other end is a second, so I'll take this," Pike said.
"It was a good effort. I was trying to steer away from the inside, but I couldn't find the way out in the middle of the track so I just went where I had to.
"She was very brave right through the line and attacked every bit to it.
""t's great to be back. (I'm) eating a bit of humble pie today but I'll take what I can get."
The biggest win of her career boosted Celebrity Queen's overall record to seven wins and four seconds from 13 starts for $825,780 in earnings.
The four-year-old mare is nominated for the $1.25m Group 1 Newmarket Stakes (1200m) at Flemington on March 6.
Pike had every reason to be pleased with the effort of Arcadia Queen, who put in an excellent performance in preparation for next month's $5m All-Star Mile (1600m) at Moonee Valley, with a fighting second behind Probabeel in the Futurity Stakes, beaten by only half a length.
"Very good run. That's what she had today (Saturday)," he said.
"Hopefully she takes some improvement out of it and she'll be good again."
The five-year-old mare was having her first start since her Group 1 win in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington last November.
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