The connections of talented three-year-old Catalyst have identified two major assignments for last start Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) winner in the new year.
Owner Dick Karreman, his racing manager Rick Williams, and trainer Clayton Chipperfield, have circled the Gr.1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington on February 29 and the A$5 million All-Star Mile (1600m) at Caulfield on March 14, however, they remain uncertain about his path towards those targets.
“We are still working out a couple of lead-up races, whether he has them back here in New Zealand or we go over to Australia in late January and have a couple of goes over there,” Chipperfield said.
If he remains in New Zealand for his initial runs, the son of Darci Brahma is set on a collision course with 10-time Group One winner Melody Belle and Group One performer Te Akau Shark in the Gr.1 BCD Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa on Februay 8.
“His first couple of runs haven’t been finalised yet, but it looks like we could have a couple of runs in New Zealand and then head over to Australia,” Chipperfield said.
“We are scratching our heads over whether we go to the Telegraph (Gr.1, 1200m) and then into the sprint at Te Rapa. We will be coming up against Melody Belle and Te Akau Shark if we go there.
“If we don’t go to the Telegraph, we will possibly go to a few trials into the sprint at Te Rapa.
“His first possible Australian run could be the Guineas, but if not we could run in the Autumn Stakes (Gr.2, 1400m, at Caulfield).”
While stepping up against two of New Zealand’s in-form gallopers may seem daunting, Chipperfield is confident Catalyst can hold his own against Melody Belle and Te Akau Shark.
“I would like to think he would be competitive with them,” Chipperfield said. “He has got fresher legs being a little bit younger, but if we do stay home we will certainly have a test of that in the sprint at Te Rapa.”
Catalyst had an enviable spring campaign, winning all four of his starts, all at stakes level, culminating with victory in the New Zealand 2000 Guineas at Riccarton last month.
“It was a huge relief when we went past the finishing line in front, that’s for sure,” Chipperfield said.
“He has learnt a heck of a lot from his last campaign and it certainly puts him in good stead going into Australian racing.”
Since his 2000 Guineas victory, Catalyst has been spelling at The Oaks Stud near Cambridge, and the scales reflected his enjoyment of the lush, green pasture on his stable return.
“He went out straight after the 2000 Guineas run, he had three weeks out in the paddock and has put on 23 kilos,” Chipperfield said.
“They originally told me he had put on 39 kilos, so I was a little worried there, but he raced at 460kg on our scales at the track and I put him back on those same scales yesterday (Tuesday) morning and he was only 23kg heavier.
“It was good that he put on a little bit, because he is not overly big. Looking at him, a lot of it is muscle.
“I am very happy with him and he is back in work now and looks terrific.”
With New Zealand residents eligible to join the public vote to help shape the field for the All-Star Mile in March, Chipperfield is confident his compatriots will get in behind his runner.
“He has certainly got a big following here in New Zealand,” he said. “A lot of people were cheering him to win the Guineas.
“We are only a small team, him and I, and everyone is loving it. He has certainly got a lot of following.” – NZ Racing Desk