Father of Regional Racing
Len Pike left a major legacy to the WA racing industry in the Lark Hill training complex.
It is hard to comprehend now, some 30 years after the opening of the Lark Hill training complex in 1985, how intense the battle was for Pike and fellow Lark Hill cohorts (Bob McPherson, Malcolm Ayoub and Rick Ould to name a few) to establish the racetrack.
Ascot was the epicentre of the State’s racing industry and there was training at Belmont Park and the retired racetrack at Helena Vale had been a training and trial centre, before being closed up and sold off by the WA Turf Club.
What was needed to drive project from virgin bush into a racetrack was a person with an iron determination – that man was Pike.
Pike’s dream of racing at Lark Hill came to fruition in 2001 when a picnic meeting was held at the track and the horses were ridden by amateur jockeys.
Pike applied the same steely grit to his training and he quickly rose through the ranks from an owner-trainer in 1955 to be the State’s leading professional trainer in the 1970s.
Winning his first trainers’ title in 1973-74 Pike was to win another six titles to dominate the training ranks in the 1970s.
It wasn’t until Ascot trainer Lou Luciani won his eighth title in 1997-98 that Pike’s State-record was to be eclipsed, and his training record of a 101 winners (1976-77) in a season wasn’t bettered until fellow WA Racing Hall of Fame Inductee Neville Parnham (2014) trained 102 winners in 2009.
Known affectionately as “Father” by his family and peers, Pike had a good eye for a horse, abundant patience and skill in preparing one to fulfil its best.
Pike loved nothing more than to beat the bookmakers and an example of this was when Star Glitter, ridden by Pike’s son Tom, duly won after being backed from 20/1 into 9/4, providing a rather dramatic reversal of form.
Pike and Tom were to be formidable combination. They created a record, which is likely to stand the test of time, when Detonator carried 67kg to win the 1976 Bunbury Stakes. They returned to win the Bunbury Cup with Paris Prince the following year.
Detonator had carried 51.5kg to give the pair success in the Group 1 Railway Stakes in 1975, and in another testimony to his weightcarrying ability was when lumped with 60.5kg he won the 1976 Easter Stakes at Ascot.
Pike prepared a swag of top line horses but among the best of his others were Whiskey Lover, Hanging In, Star Glitter, Action Station, Firelight, Venetian Princess, Super Red and WA Oaks winner Lovely Curves.
Pike died on the eve of the Melbourne Cup on November 4, 2002.
PRINCIPAL RACE WINS