Superstar galloper Catalyst thrilled new trainer Tony Pike toay and he in turn has news that will thrill local gallops officials.
Catalyst had his first official outing since joining Pike from former trainer Clayton Chipperfield at Cambridge synthetic trials today and went to the line alongside stablemate Marchioness, beaten a nose, in an open catchweight over 950m.
Although usual rider Troy Harris put no pressure on the five-year-old, he looks a happy, sound horse and Pike is surveying his options.
"It is exactly what he needed," said the Cambridge trainer.
"He had a good solid fresh-up hitout but showed he is feeling good and I will now trial him again at Te Rapa in about 12 days."
Pike will then discuss with the owners whether Catalyst resumes at Te Rapa on August 28 in the Foxbridge Plate or in the Tarzino at Hastings on September 11.
Both clubs would be thrilled to attract Catalyst, with the likelihood he could take on Avantage and Tavi Mac among others at Te Rapa while he could meet that pair and even Aegon and defending champion Callsign Mav at Hastings, with the latter also a chance to go to Te Rapa.
Callsign Mav was also impressive at the trials today, winning his open 1200m catchweight.
Those sort of clashes not only add serious spring glamour to the domestic racing scene but Catalyst adds a level of name recognition among Australian punters, who remember Catalyst from his stirring C S Hayes duel with Alligator Blood 18 months ago, so can only be good for turnover.
Pike will eventually consider taking Catalyst, winner of the 2000 Guineas two years ago, back to Australia but wants to see him perform at group level in New Zealand firstly.
It was a busy and productive day for his stable at the trials, with former NZ Derby winner Sherwood Forest winning the opening 1200m tria.
"He has come back really well and will probably have one start here before heading to Victoria," confirmed Pike.
Doubtful Sound is a classy three-year-old who caught the eye in another open catchweight today and is on the 2000 Guineas path while Pike's long-range tip for Herald readers is Dawn Parade to be a sneaky chance in the Couplands Mile at Riccarton during Cup week after he won well today.
Pike will have eyes on two feature races for different reasons Saturday with the domestic gallops at Ruakaka and Riccarton.
He takes Makzabeel (R4, No4) to the $32,500 Ruakaka Cup where he carries just 54kg and has Danielle Johnson on board and rates his chances.
"He likes Ruakaka so has to be a huge chance and some rain wouldn't bother him," says Pike.
Down south, Pike may no longer train $100,000 Winter Cup contender Beauty Star but he and wife Kirsten still own the veteran who is rated a 10-1 chance in the historic winter mile.
"He is like so many horses from up here who are better off in the South Island where they race for pretty much the same money as up here and then you have a race like this week for $100,000 which is awesome.
"We have had so much luck with horses we have sent to Terri [Rae, new trainer] and while it won't be an easy race to win he isn't without a chance."
Justaskme is the $3.80 favourite for the Winter Cup after a stunning last start win.