The endorsement for the "one to beat" to clinch the El Roca — Sir Colin Meads Trophy had come from the rival quarters earlier this week before the listed race in Hastings today. Tarzino Trophy favourite trainer Tony Pike, of Cambridge, had proclaimed Catalyst was the one the other horses in the field of a dozen had to overcome in the 1200m dash for three-year-olds.
The Darci Brahma bay gelding, under the tutelage of Clayton Chipperfield, didn't disappoint (maybe Pike aside), galloping across the line with jockey Troy Harris to victory, finishing four lengths ahead of the Jamie Richards-trained Equinox (Jonathan Riddell) who pipped Pike's Loire by a neck to third place.
Perhaps the signs were there on the NZTR website for gallop fields when Pike had scratched another filly, Kali.
Shaun Ritchie had followed suit in withdrawing Jennifer Eccles from race five. The pair had instead slotted those horses in race two — Taupo Pak'nSave Fillies 1100m earlier at 12.15pm, igniting the fuse to a dash that had its own share of drama.
"It was phenomenal, you know," said Chipperfield of Catalyst who had jumped out of barrier 13. "To have an outside barrier then to put yourself in a race like that and be relaxed is absolutely spot on."
The 38-year-old Te Awamutu trainer said to kick the way Catalyst had was a signature of a class act on show during the Tarzino Trophy TAB Daffodil Raceday — the first leg of the Bostock New Zealand Spring Racing Carnival group 1 trilogy here.
Chipperfield said Catalyst had had two wins from three trials coming into the race here so he and his stable were confident of a display.
"He's got ability and every time he's stepped out he's beaten some nice horses so he was always going to be a threat today and it's great he has shown that."
Chipperfield said Catalyst would return in five weeks for the group 2 Sacred Falls Hawke's Bay Guineas, a race on the final leg of the spring carnival trilogy here, the Livamol Classic, on Saturday, October 5.
"We'll just see how he builds up after this to see if he's going to need another run or not so, all going well, we're going to head off to Christchurch for the [New Zealand] 2000 Guineas," he said of the group 1 race in Riccarton on November 9.
A horse that gravitates to wet surfaces, he said with the turn of foot that Catalyst possessed it seemed to have got a "better ping" on the dead 4 Hastings track.
"I think the better the track, the better the horse."
Catalyst was broken in at Cambridge but ended up at Chipperfield's stables to be pre-trained but a decision was reached to leave him there with other mounts to see if he could eke out a few wins.
"He's just a relaxed, old gentleman," said the former world-class jumps jockey. "He relaxes like he's done it a 100 times but he's only just turned three and he's been a pro all the way through."
Kali (Leith Innes) had maintained an unblemished record of two wins but it came in the protest room after she finished a head shy of fellow Cambridge filly Jennifer Eccles (Donavan Mansour) across the line.
Jennifer Eccles had punters on their feet when she shifted gears from almost the back of the eight-horse field to eclipse Kali and Hastings trainer John Bary's On Show (Chris Johnson).
However, a NZ Racing Desk report said a bumping duel with Kali at the 250m mark led to the protagonists in the inquiry room, relegating Jennifer Eccles to second place.
"It's nice to get the win but not really the way you want to achieve it," a philosophical Pike said. "She was a little fresh and over-raced a bit which didn't help when she got trapped as the pace eased coming to the corner."
Pike has bracketed Kali for the group 3 HB Breeders' Gold Trail Stakes, a 1200m race, in the second leg of the spring carnival here, the Windsor Park Plate meeting, on Saturday, September 21.