Colt's owner makes gesture to earthquake coffers

WINNING RIDE: Sacred Falls and jockey Leith Innes after winning the 2000 Guineas at Riccarton.
WINNING RIDE: Sacred Falls and jockey Leith Innes after winning the 2000 Guineas at Riccarton.

Racing chiefs say the 2000 Guineas-winning owner's two $50,000 donations to the Canterbury Jockey Club and the Canterbury earthquake coffers were "a truly wonderful gesture" and a huge surprise.

Just minutes after watching his three-year-old colt Sacred Falls claim the $400,000 Group I feature to a standing ovation at Riccarton on Saturday, owner Dato Yap Kim San had them on their feet again.

The punters had backed his horse all week. Now it was his turn to return the favour.

During the acceptance speech it was announced that $50,000 of the winning stake would be given back to the Canterbury Jockey Club to assist with the rebuild of their old members' stand, which was demolished last month following the earthquakes.

But the giving didn't stop there - another $50,000 pledged to the Canterbury Earthquake Appeal Trust.

Yap, a Malaysian businessman, still walked away with $137,000 in his back pocket courtesy of Sacred Falls' win, but Canterbury Jockey Club boss Tim Mills said the generous offer was a complete shock.

"We had no idea anything like that was going to happen, it struck as a big surprise. It was truly a wonderful gesture from a wonderful man. He toured the city on Saturday morning and said to me he felt very sorry for what we had all been through.".

Yap burst onto the racing scene through the deeds of AJC Derby-winning filly Shamrocker and is now starting to make quite the impression on New Zealand racing.

It's estimated that over the past three years he has spent millions, buying a large share of the Raffles Farm, a 60-hectare showpiece in Cambridge, and stocking it with some of the finest broodmares in the country.

But Saturday was the first time Yap had been on course to watch Sacred Falls race.

He had watched his five previous wins on the internet in Kuala Lumpur.

"This is a very good day," he said. "We are very lucky to have a wonderful horse, with very good trainers and a great jockey."

While Yap and the rest of the group who travelled over to watch Sacred Falls showed immense signs of jubilation, co-trainer Tony Pike just looked relieved.

The Cambridge horseman, who trains in partnership with Mark Donoghue, described the week leading up to Saturday as one of his toughest ever.

"The whole week's been nerve-racking," Pike said.

"We had a $1.50 favourite with an unbeaten record, a colt with a stallion prospect and with the owners here for the first time.

"It's a huge relief that it's over and we have done it.

"I think I can relax a bit now."

Victory was sweet for 37-year-old Pike, who has been involved in racing all his life apart from a seven-year stint as an accountant.

It was his and Donoghue's first Group I victory and that they picked Sacred Falls out of a group of five horses to train.

The pair brought five horses as yearlings for Yap, and four of them were destined for racing in Singapore, but Pike was allowed to keep one.

"I picked the right one for a change.

"He's definitely an exceptional racehorse but he still has got a lot of filling out to do physically.

"He's had a pretty solid campaign of four starts for four wins which have all been in stakes races. I've always thought that with time on his side he should get better, especially heading into the autumn."

Pike said Sacred Falls would now be spelled for six weeks.

After that they would announce their next plan of attack.

It is likely that he will head to Sydney in April to contest the riches there.

Until then though he stands unbeaten, winning six out of six with stakes of more than $378,000.

The run of filly Oasis Rose to finish second was just as good as the performance of the winner.

Instead of returning to tackle the 1000 Guineas on Saturday the Graeme and Debbie Rogerson trained runner will head back to Waikato with the AJC Oaks her main target.