Star New Zealand three-year-old Catalyst will make his return in the Group Three Mr Tiz Trophy at Ellerslie ahead of his Australian campaign.
The race is on the undercard of Saturday’s Karaka Million meeting with the annual yearling sale beginning a day later.
Catalyst showed his fitness last week when he beat Cox Plate placegetter Te Akau Shark in a barrier trial at Matamata.
After Ellerslie, Catalyst will head to Melbourne for the Group Three C S Hayes Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on February 15 followed by the Group One Australian Guineas and possibly the All-Star Mile.
The Ellerslie race will be Catalyst’s first start since he won the Group One New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) on November 9 when he beat Harlech who runs in the Karaka 3YO Million.
Catalyst is raced by his breeder, Australian businessman Dick Karreman, the proprietor of The Oaks Stud in New Zealand.
The farm will be selling at Karaka, with Karreman’s general manager Rick Williams saying they had scaled back in recent years.
The stud will offer six of Darci Brahma’s progeny in Book One and Williams is expecting most interest to come from New Zealand and Hong Kong buyers.
“Despite what Catalyst has done, I don’t expect any more demand than usual from Australian buyers,” Williams told NZ Racing Desk.
“He’s left plenty of winners over there, but most Australian buyers haven’t taken to him.
“If there is a lift for him at the sale this year I’m expecting it will be from Hong Kong after two phenomenal years up there.”
In recent years Karreman made the decision to reduce his broodmare band, which peaked at approximately 120 and is currently 50.
“Dick has also decided he wants to enjoy racing good horses,” Williams said. “We’ve kept 22 yearlings and we’re hoping we might find another Catalyst!
“I always thought Catalyst was good, but he’s surprised me how good he is.
Catalyst has won the past five of his total of six starts with four of those wins in stakes races.
His connections, including trainer Clayton Chipperfield, are keen to test the water in Australia and Williams has been keeping a close watch on recent racing in Victoria which has been affected by the intense fires causing loss of air quality.
“It’s been serious in Melbourne with them having to cancel meetings and that is a factor to consider, but hopefully the rain they’re now having will help,” Williams said.