Graff

Graff heading to the gates for the Black Caviar Lightning (Image: Racing Photos)

Pike out to break Melbourne hoodoo

William Pike has dominated the jockey ranks in Western Australia for the best part of the 21st century and currently leads his home state jockey premiership by a staggering 81 wins, having booted home 143 winners for the 2018/19 season.

However, despite all his success, Pike endured a sleepless night on Thursday as he battled nerves and an overwhelming sense of anticipation ahead of a date with the famous Flemington straight on Friday morning.

The champion hoop was in town to get acquainted with the Seppelt Wines Newmarket Handicap-bound colt Graff ahead of the $1.25 million sprint feature on March 9.

Pike flew over on Thursday just for the jumpout, stating the offer to ride 'ticked all the boxes, I got the phone call from Kris Lees and there wasn't too much happening back home'.

Pike wanted to get a feel for Graff ahead of race day as the three-year-old colt can be scratchy in the barriers.

"He was mostly on his best behavior as far as the gates were concerned, he did get a bit fired up before (they jumped) but he got out of the gates pretty well and trialled up nicely," Pike said.

"It's obviously the first time I've sat on him but he felt great … I'd expect him to run great."

Graff resumed in the 1000-metre Black Cavair Lightning on February 16, where he produced the second-best last 800/600/400/200-metre sectionals of the meeting to be beaten just under a length.

The three-year-old will drop to 51kg (from 55.5kg in the Lightning) under the handicap conditions of the Seppelt Wines Newmarket Handicap and the step up to 1200 metres looks in his favour.

Graff will be out to emulate the deeds of his father Star Witness, who was a brilliant winner down the straight six at Flemington when taking out the 2010 Coolmore Handicap.

One of Graff's main rivals in the Seppelt Wines Newmarket will be Sunlight, who was also in Friday's jumpout but Pike is confident Graff has the three-year-old filly's measure.

"I tracked in behind her in the jumpout but he (Graff) was strong to the line," he said.

As well as dominating the Western Australian jockey ranks in recent years, Pike has also been the leading jockey in Australia for the past three seasons.

Asked if he would make riding in Melbourne a more regular occurrence, Pike was non-committal: "I wouldn't say no if a few opportunities popped up but I wouldn't say that I'm chasing them hard as I've got my role to do back home."

Pike last rode in Melbourne back in 2015 but hasn't ridden at Flemington since 2010, when he partnered WA mare Dreamaway in the Listed Softiel Stakes over 1400m.

"I rode Dream Away at Flemington over 1400m and I'm still looking for a run!" Pike joked.

Graff's trainer Kris Lees was also on hand to watch the jumpout on Friday and he was impressed with what he saw.

"He went nicely, it was just to give him a bit more experience down the straight and have a blowout," Lees said.

"He appears to have come through it well and it was good to have Willie (Pike) over here to have a feel of him."

With the turnaround at the weights, Lees believes Graff is a good chance to turn the tables on her stablemate In Her Time (who won the Black Caviar Lightning).

Lees was delighted with snaring Pike's services: "We were looking for a good lightweight rider, he's a very successful rider in WA and it's great to have him over here."

Graff is currently a $7 second favourite for the Seppelt Wines Newmarket Handicap.