Catalyst continued his dominance of spring three-year-old racing with another breathtaking performance in Saturday’s Group 2 Sacred Falls Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m). A spectacular winner of the Listed El Roca-Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m) and Group 3 Northland Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) in his previous two starts, the super-talented son of Darci Brahma headed to Hastings on Saturday as a $1.30 favourite to complete a black-type treble.
But he was caught wide after an awkward start, and rider Troy Harris had no choice but to burn some petrol and sprint forward to take the lead at the end of the back straight. After doing that much work early in a race, most horses would be vulnerable in the home straight. But Catalyst is no ordinary three-year-old. He was able to sprint again, running away from Callsign Mav.
Harris looked over his shoulder and then eased Catalyst down in the last 50 metres, winning by two and three-quarter lengths in a time of 1:22.65. Callsign Mav produced a remarkable performance in his own right, beating the rest of the field by seven lengths, while Aotea Lad was third. “He’s scary, he just keeps improving,” Harris said. “He was slow away and I opted to go forward and take bad luck out of the equation. “He was just too good. I had to have a couple of looks over my shoulder, just to see where everything else was. He just does it so easily. He’ll be even better over a mile (1600m) – he’ll eat it up.”
Born on November 16, so still not yet a three-year-old, Catalyst is now the winner of four of his five starts for owner-breeder Dick Karreman. The blue-and-white The Oaks Stud colours had previously been carried to a close second placing in the Hawke’s Bay Guineas by All Decked Out in 2013. “Wow, that was something special,” trainer Clayton Chipperfield said. “Having a horse like this is just an absolute dream start to my training career. I’m so grateful for the support The Oaks Stud have given me. “It’s unbelievable. I had the fortune of riding successfully over jumps, including winning a Group 1 race in the US. I thought that was the best feeling ever, but this is absolutely phenomenal.”
The Oaks Stud general manager Rick Williams is proud to see Catalyst carrying the flag for the stud’s well-performed stallion Darci Brahma, who himself won the Hawke’s Bay Guineas in track-record time in 2005. “It’s very exciting, and him being a son of Darci Brahma adds even more to it,” he said. “Dick Karreman had told me to keep the horses who didn’t look like they’d sell for a lot of money, because he wanted to race them himself. This horse was one of those. I thought we might have a bit of fun with him, but I didn’t expect it to happen as quickly as it has. Onwards and upwards from here, we hope.”
Catalyst’s next start will be in the Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 9, where he will attempt to become the 12th horse to complete the Hawke’s Bay Guineas-2000 Guineas double. Catalyst is now rated a $1.15 chance for the 2000 Guineas – rare odds for an elite race in New Zealand. “This race would have taken a bit out of him, so he won’t run again before the Guineas,” Chipperfield said. “We’ll just give him a jumpout or exhibition gallop if he needs it.”
Craig Grylls, rider of runner-up Callsign Mav, said the gelding was game in defeat. “We sat outside the leader and Catalyst had to do a bit of work to get around me,” he said. “I thought that might soften him up a bit, but to the winner’s credit he was just far too good. My bloke chased hard in defeat and he is a good galloper with a bright future.”