Ding, ding. Bring on round two.
That is the message from trainer Clayton Chipperfield as star Kiwi three-year-old Catalyst prepares to avenge his last-start defeat to Queenslander Alligator Blood when the pair clash in Saturday’s Gr.1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington.
In a race for the ages, Alligator Blood prevailed by a short head over Catalyst in the Gr.3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) earlier this month after an enthralling length-of-the-straight battle at Flemington, reminiscent of two prize fighters going blow for blow over 12 rounds.
In the much-hyped rematch, Catalyst has been installed the $2.60 favourite ahead of his bigger opponent, who is a $3 chance in what shapes as a deep field, with plenty of potential wildcards that could spoil the match race.
A three-year-old boasting a last start Group One victory over older horses would normally command top billing for an Australian Guineas, but such is the depth to the field, Gr.1 CF Orr Stakes (1400m) winner Alabama Express finds himself on the fourth line of betting at $7, splitting emerging gallopers Chenier ($6) and Superstorm ($10).
And while Alligator Blood’s trainer David Vandyke has described his title contender’s work as tradesman-like and has pointed to the fact the Blood has raced or trialled every month since July, the Kiwi camp are brimming with confidence.
“I think he is getting better,” Chipperfield said of Catalyst.
“I will be very interested to see what Damian Lane says after he gallops him tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. He galloped him before the CS Hayes and I am hoping he gets off him and says he has improved.
“I gave him a run along on Saturday and I think he has definitely improved.”
The former jumps jockey-turned-trainer believes track conditions should be a lot more suitable for his charge this weekend.
“With the downgrade of the track and the rain on the day, we didn’t see that brilliance last-start, but we have never seen him in a dogfight either, so to see him do that and not lie down certainly gives us a bit more confidence,” he said.
Chipperfield is hoping to draw well so Catalyst can secure a handy position in the running on Saturday.
“I think he is best suited behind them,” he said. “If we can get a decent draw on Saturday ideally I would love to see him in the one-one.
“If he can sit behind them then we can hook out and he has that sprint.”
Catalyst will be ridden by Damian Lane in Saturday’s assignment, his third jockey in as many starts, but Chipperfield doesn’t believe that will be an issue.
“I am sure James (McDonald) and Damian had a good chat after the Hayes,” Chipperfield said.
“Damian was meant to ride him but got suspended, and luckily for us James McDonald didn’t have a ride, so to get James on and get his opinion of the horse was great. He is the real deal this horse.”
Catalyst is staying at Brett Scott’s Mornington stable and Chipperfield said the surrounds at his long-time friend’s place were similar to his Te Awamutu base.
“He’s a very happy horse, we couldn’t have asked for a better spot at Scotty’s stable. He settled in as soon as he got off the plane.
“It’s the same set-up as back home. We had a chance to go to Flemington and box him there, but we only box at night at home and in the day he has a paddock. That is exactly what we have got here.
“It was a good incentive to come here and keep up his same pattern.”
The 39-year-old horseman is taking in as much as possible on his maiden campaign in Australia.
“This is my first trip over here with a horse and racing over here is just unbelievable. There are so many opportunities for every class of horse.
“If you’ve got a good horse back home, you’ve got to come to Australia. The prizemoney is just phenomenal. Catalyst for example has won six stakes and Group races and we’ve got $480,000 in the bank, whereas Alligator Blood hasn’t won a Group One and he has won A$2.2million in prizemoney.”
Chipperfield is looking forward to Saturday’s contest, which will be his last start before the A$5million All-Star Mile (1600m) next month and yet anther chance to bolster his bank account.
“He’s happy, which makes me happy,” Chipperfield said. – NZ Racing Desk