Catalyst’s spring campaign is over, but trainer Clayton Chipperfield admits he breathed a sigh of relief when hearing the result of Monday morning’s Sydney veterinary inspection on his stable star.
Catalyst is booked to return to New Zealand on Sunday for a three-month spell after he tailed the field home when resuming in the Group 2 The Shorts (1100m) at Randwick last Saturday. When under pressure, he suffered from interference in the home straight and was eased down by rider Glen Boss.
A post-race veterinary examination on raceday revealed Catalyst to be 2/5 lame in his off-foreleg and Chipperfield, who wasn’t able to be in Sydney because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s travel requirements, feared a worse result for the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) winner.
“I was thinking he might need surgery and that could open up a lot of other problems and see him off the scene for a long time,” Chipperfield said. “Fortunately he just needs a three-month spell and the vet says he should be good to go again. “The vet examined him this morning (Monday) and the x-ray showed there is a lot of movement around his fetlocks. It’s a maturity thing and he’s still growing.
“He will have three months out at The Oaks Stud and all going well he could be back racing in the mid to late autumn. “It’s a shame what happened, but at the end of the day we’ve still got a horse.”
There was pre-race confidence in the Catalyst camp he would produce a bold fresh-up effort in the Shorts and Boss shared that feeling. “Bossy said he went down super in his preliminary and he was good in the running, but as soon as he let him go there was nothing there,” Chipperfield said. “That’s not him. Usually when you let him go he explodes. “Sure he got the interference, but he was gone before that and Bossy just eased him right down.”
It’s the second time Catalyst has required a veterinary examination after a below-par run in Australia. Following his brave second to Alligator Blood in his Australian debut in the Group 3 C. S. Hayes (1400m) at Flemington last February he finished sixth in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) and was later found to be suffering from bruised fetlocks.
“He’s a late November foal and not even four yet, so it’s still all in front of him,” Chipperfield said. “We’ve just got to put it all down to his immaturity.”
Though Catalyst didn’t shine in Sydney, Chipperfield did have some reason to celebrate on the home front last Saturday when Desert Mirage, a four-year-old mare he now races in partnership with The Oaks Stud, scored a hard-fought win in the final event at Ruakaka.
“Coming around the bend I thought she was struggling, but she dug deep and won well,” Chipperfield said. “She’s only had the two starts since I’ve been a part-owner and she’s won them both. “I’d like to take her down for the Rating 74 1600m at Hastings (on October 3) and later look to step her up over ground. “We know she can handle it as she ran seventh in the New Zealand Oaks (Group 1, 2400m) and she was still immature. She’s fully developed now and stronger.”
Chipperfield’s interest this weekend will be divided between Ellerslie and New Plymouth. He plans to start London Bound (a last-start winner at Taupo) at Ellerslie and will send the five-race winner Obsessive down to Taranaki for an open 1800m. “I’m looking at trying to get black type for London Bound and that’s what we’re building up to,” he said.
“I missed getting her in the Rating 72 at Hastings last Saturday so hopefully she can get a run at Ellerslie on Saturday then go to either Matamata for the stakes race (the Listed Matamata Cup, 1400m on October 10) or the Taranaki Breeders Stakes (Group 3, 1400m) at Hawera the same day. “I think she’s up to winning black-type for sure.”
On the other hand, Obsessive won’t be getting many more chances if he doesn’t measure up on Saturday. “He’s taking a bit to get up and at Ellerslie last start it was too wet and too short for him,” Chipperfield said. “We know he’s got the ability, but he’s running out of chances. This could be his last chance on Saturday.”
Chipperfield has plenty of other young horses waiting to get their opportunities after a change in direction for his stable over the last 12 months. “Eighteen months ago, I had a couple in work and the rest were pre-trainers or breakers, but now I’ve got 30 in work and they’re all my racing team,” he said.
“I haven’t got any room for any outside pre-trainers or breakers now. It’s just the way it’s gone, and I want to make the most of being a trainer. “I’ve got some nice triallists as well as promising horses like Desert Mirage and London Bound. And, all going well, I’ve got Catalyst to look forward when he comes back into work.”