Comeback horse Alligator Blood’s Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) triumph has Cambridge trainer Tony Pike hoping that one of that horse’s most notable rivals can have a similarly successful return to racing next spring.
Alligator Blood’s Stradbroke victory was his first trip to the winners circle since he took out the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) in February 2020, his most notable victory as a three-year-old.
Among his Australian Guineas victims was the outstanding New Zealand three-year-old Catalyst, who two weeks previously had stretched Alligator Blood to the limit in a stirring edition of the Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m).
Catalyst has had a number of niggling injuries since finishing sixth in the Australian Guineas and has only raced once in the two years since that race.
Originally trained by Clayton Chipperfield, he was moved to the stable of Tony Pike last year when Chipperfield decided to step away from training and is now once again on the comeback trail.
“He’s obviously had a number of little issues that we’ve had to sort out along the way since he joined us, but hopefully we’ve got to the bottom of all of those,” Pike said.
“He’s been back in probably about a fortnight now, and we’ll just take him slowly into the spring.
“Just like Alligator Blood, we hope that we can get him back to something like his best.”
Catalyst looked like a potential star in the spring of 2019, winning the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), Group 3 Northland Breeders’ Stakes (1200m), and the Group 2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m).
If Pike is able to get him back for spring, a return to Hawke’s Bay for races such as the Group 1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) and Group 1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) are on the cards.
“If he gets there, it would be great, but if not, we’ll take him slowly. There would be plenty available for him over the summer months as well,” he said.
Pike is looking forward to spring after a winter of discontent in Queensland. He took his largest team yet to the carnival there but very wet weather meant he hasn’t won a race to date this winter.
“It rained for about six weeks as soon as we got there, and early on the only track we were racing on was the Polytrack at the Sunshine Coast, so we missed races, trials, and a lot of gallops,” he said.
“We pulled the pin on three of them without them having a run. It was a carnival to draw a line through.
“We’ve been there and done that before, so we’re going to regroup and no doubt we’ll be back again next year.”
The only horses Pike still has in Queensland are Letzbeglam, who finished 11th in the Group 2 Dane Ripper Stakes (1300m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday, and Bentayga.
“Letzbeglam ran well but she felt the ground on Saturday so she’ll be having a break now, while Bentayga will run Wednesday week in a Rating 78 1600m race at Doomben and then probably go to 2000m at his next start,” Pike said.
“All the others we brought them home early once a plane was available after the weanling sale, otherwise they were going to have to go via Sydney.”
Along with Catalyst, Pike will be targeting a number of his best gallopers at spring and summer racing next season.
Dimaggio and Slipper Island, who both had problems with wet tracks in Queensland, will probably lead the way for Pike in the early three-year-old races.
“They are both very progressive types and should be more than competitive in those races, while we have a number of other nice rising three-year-olds coming through,” he said.
Rapid Falls will be aimed at Cups races over summer, while his Group 2 Waikato Guineas (2000m) winner Field of Gold is likely to head to Hastings, with the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) the main aim.
“He’s been back in for three weeks now. Those three races at Hawke’s Bay look ideal for him and he’s better left-handed as well,” Pike said.