Champion Australian jockey Damian Lane uttered the words Kiwi trainer Clayton Chipperfield wanted to hear after his first ride on Catalyst yesterday. "He is ready," said Lane.

Not that Lane got to give the Te Awamutu superstar his head during a controlled track gallop at Morning-ton yesterday. This was more about getting to know each other.

But Lane liked what he felt and Chipperfield has liked what he has seen since Catalyst arrived in Victoria on Sunday night.

"It is like he has never left home," says Chipperfield from the property of fellow New Zealand jumps jockey Brett Scott.


"He travelled like an old pro, left two handfuls of feed the first night and has eaten everything in sight since."

But as happy as Catalyst seems starting his three-race campaign in the A$160,000 C S Hayes Stakes at Flemington on Saturday it is still satisfying to hear Australia's most dynamic jockey of the last 12 months give him the thumbs up.

Lane won't even be riding the gelding on Saturday. He is suspended and will pair with him for the first in full flight in the A$1 million Australian Guineas on February 29.

But yesterday's easy work over 1200m will have whetted his appetite.

"We weren't there to do too much so he just went half pace for the first 600m, then a bit quicker and Damian let him come home in 39 seconds for the final 600m but he was jogging.

"The track had a good sole of grass, like a dead5 at home but there is a bit of a rise up the straight so I didn't want him going any quicker.

"Damian liked how he felt and said he covers the ground really well with that long stride for not a big horse.

"I wanted to know a bit more so I asked him, is he was ready for Saturday?


"And he said he is."

One of the great things about training a horse like Catalyst, who has won six of seven including the 2000 Guineas, is you never have to worry about finding a top replacement rider when your first choice gets suspended.

James McDonald is about as good as replacements come in this part of the world. Or any part of the world for that matter.

McDonald will need to be to overcome the outside barrier of eight on Saturday, with key rival and favourite Alligator Blood drawn the ace at the tricky 1400m Flemington start.

Saturday's race pales stakes-wise with the Guineas and then the even loftier target of the A$5 million All Star Mile at Caulfield on March 14 so Chipperfield knows maintaining their winning streak is not the end of the world.

"Barrier eight might not sound great but I'd rather be there than barrier one," Chipperfield told the Herald yesterday.

"As we all know he can be a bit slow away and that could put him back on the inside from the ace.

"I would have liked four or five but we have eight and that could make it tough.

"There is no point me giving James instructions so he will ride him how he sees it but it looks like Alligator Blood could lead and get his own way.

"So this could be a really hard race for us to win. I'd love to win it but if it doesn't pan out that way I'll be happy if we leave Flemington on Saturday night knowing we have a horse who is competitive."

Because of the draw, Catalyst is the $2.40 second favourite behind Alligator Blood at $2.20 with the NZ TAB.

Although the barrier draw for Saturday is hardly ideal some other numbers are falling Catalyst's way as he sits fifth in the voting for the All Star Mile, with 4694 last night.

That puts him him more than 1200 votes ahead last ranked of the 10 horses guaranteed a start when the public vote closes on Sunday although voting tends to step up in the last few days so Kiwis who haven't voted for him yet could still lend a hand.

Champion mare Melody Belle, who starts her campaign on Saturday week, is as good as in the All Star Mile field, sitting third with more than 9000 votes.