Exciting three-year-old Catalyst will take a growing reputation into the Gr.2 Sacred Falls Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) and Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) in his next two starts, attempting to follow in the footsteps of his sire Darci Brahma.
Eleven horses have won both of New Zealand’s spring age-group features, with Darci Brahma in 2005 among the most memorable. His Hawke’s Bay Guineas-winning time of 1:19.97 still stands as a Hastings track record, and he went on to outclass his opposition by four lengths at Riccarton.
Catalyst, who will be the odds-on favourite for the Hawke’s Bay Guineas at Hastings on Saturday, has made a spectacular start to his own three-year-old campaign.
Trained by Clayton Chipperfield for owner-breeder Dick Karreman, he blew his rivals off the track first-up with a four-length victory in the Listed El Roca-Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m) at Hastings. He then ventured north to Ruakaka, where he turned an awkward position into an easy victory within a few explosive strides in the Gr.3 Northland Breeders’ Stakes (1200m).
“He’s delivered two pretty spectacular performances in his campaign so far,” Chipperfield said. “He’s something a bit special, I think.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to have a horse like him in the stable so early in my training career, but it does come with a bit of pressure as well. There’s always pressure when you have a horse that everyone expects to win a Group Two race.
“But there’s a lot of people out there who’d love to be in that position, so I’m not going to complain about it.”
Chipperfield believes his stable star learned a lot from the Northland Breeders’ Stakes three weeks ago, where he showed signs of greenness.
“It was the first time he’d ever had horses around him during a race, so he was just inclined to do a few things wrong,” he said. “I think that was a really good learning experience for him.”
There are some new faces among Catalyst’s opposition on Saturday, such as a stakes winner from this season’s filly crop, Riva Capri, and stylish last-start winners Callsign Mav and Sherwood Forest.
But Chipperfield is delighted with Catalyst’s condition heading into the race.
“Everything’s gone really well with him in the lead-up to Saturday,” he said. “He’s had his final gallop, where he did everything we wanted him to do and then pulled up really well.
“The only thing I’d like to see now is a little bit of sunshine in Hawke’s Bay for the rest of the week. I see the track is a Slow7 today after some rain overnight.
“He handles rain-affected ground – it was a Slow9 when he won at New Plymouth. But I think you’ll see a better horse on top of the ground.”
The Hawke’s Bay Guineas will be Catalyst’s final lead-up run before the 2000 Guineas on November 9.
“I won’t give him another run in between times, but he could have a jumpout or an exhibition gallop if he needs it,” Chipperfield said.