Three days out from the biggest race of his career, trainer Clayton Chipperfield enjoyed two sizeable positives on Wednesday when his mighty horse Catalyst drew the barrier he wanted for Saturday's Group 1 Australian Guineas.
New rider Damian Lane travelled to Mornington for an inside grass gallop on the Guineas favourite and his feedback, coupled with Chipperfield's own instincts, has the trainer well placed ahead of the $1 million classic where he has the chance to level the score with Alligator Blood.
Some hours before the barriers were drawn, Chipperfield said he'd hoped for either barrier four or five for his Kiwi star to allow him the best run possible and, sure enough, he will jump from the four gate in the eight-horse field.
"He's raced in every position and he's got himself out of trouble himself as well," Chipperfield said. "Ideally, we'd like a four or five draw and if we can get into the one-one we'd be very happy."
BetEasy has Catalyst as a firming favourite at $2.60 after the draw ahead of Alligator Blood (barrier two) at $3.10, with Alabama Express and Chenier at $6.
Chipperfield was on something of a high after Catalyst breezed through his final piece of work for Lane ahead of his race on Saturday. It was Lane's second trackwork ride on the horse, having worked him before James McDonald rode the three-year-old in the C.S. Hayes Stakes.
"He (Lane) said he felt super and was nice and keen on the bit, doing everything spot on," Chipperfield said.
"He's a lot more forward this time around and he said he's definitely improved since before the Hayes.
"He rode him in his final gallop leading into the Hayes - which was good of him as he wasn't riding him in the Hayes of course - but it was good to have him back on again today and he could compare the two gallops and he said there is much improvement.
"I gave him a little run along on Thursday and I thought he felt a lot stronger and had definitely improved as well so we're both of the same opinion, so surely we both can't both be wrong."
Chipperfield said the set-weights Guineas will see Catalyst at his peak after performing above expectations on his Australian debut when giving his eventual conqueror Alligator Blood a one-kilogram advantage at the weights.
"'I was absolutely rapt with that," he said of the horse's Hayes run. "We drove away thinking we'd got up because we were so happy with the run.
"We knew he'd need the run going into it. This is what we want to peak him for - the Guineas.
"To put in the dogfight that he did and not lie down, he answered all our questions whether or not he was going to be competitive or not over here and he's certainly that."
Chipperfield admitted he will be keeping a keen eye on Alligator Blood in the run.
"He's a warrior that horse and he's definitely the one we've got to try and beat but now we match at even weights and we do need a mile, so I think the advantage is in our hands this time," he said.
- Andrew Eddy