The Kiwi assault on next month’s A$5million All-Star Mile (1600m) has begun, with contenders Catalyst and Melody Belle arriving in Melbourne on Sunday. The pair have settled in well according to their connections and are getting ready for their respective first-up targets in Australia.
Catalyst’s trainer Clayton Chipperfield has crossed the Tasman with his charge and said he has taken no ill-effects from his first trip to Australia. “He and Melody Belle were beside each other 90 percent of the way and both of them travelled very well,” he said. “We have put him straight out into the paddock here in Mornington at Brett Scott’s. “Brett’s set-up is pretty similar to the one I have at home, so it all fits well. “I gave him a one round quiet trot and canter this (Monday) morning just to be happy and make sure he didn’t do any damage during the flight. He was 100 percent, nice and free, and was straight into his breakfast afterwards. He travelled super.”
Chipperfield believes Catalyst’s trip south to Christchurch in November, where he won the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), was a great assist. “A plane trip under his belt already and a trip away for a couple of days certainly helped him with this trip,” he said.
Catalyst is on a three race campaign in Melbourne, with his first assignment set for this weekend in the Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) at Flemington. “I have got Damian Lane (jockey) coming over in the middle of the week to give him a bit of a blowout, but we don’t need to do a lot with him,” Chipperfield said. “We couldn’t have him any better going into Saturday, there will be no excuses.”
Lane is set to ride Catalyst in his following two races, however, suspension has ruled him out of Saturday’s contest where leading jockey James MacDonald will take the ride. “James has got commitments in Sydney for the other two races, so he is keeping the saddle warm for Damian,” Chipperfield said.
Chipperfield is looking forward to Saturday and said it is important to perform well in front of the Australian racing public with voting for the unique All-Star Mile set to close on Sunday. Racing fans choose the majority of the horses that compete in the mile race, with voting popularity dictating the top 10 starters in the mile feature before five wildcards are added to the field.
The Darci Brahma three-year-old has more than 4000 votes and is currently the fifth most popular horse, with Melody Belle virtually assured a start with close to 8000 votes and ranked third behind Alligator Blood and Star Missile. “It’s a great buzz to be over here and to have a horse to bring over here is a great opportunity, but to have one that can be as competitive as he is just adds to the excitement,” Chipperfield said.
“If he can show his form from New Zealand over here, we have got to push on and have a go at it (All-Star Mile). It’s the richest mile race in the world, so it’s certainly on the cards. “We have only got one chance to show the Aussies before voting closes.”
Meanwhile, Melody Belle’s trainer Jamie Richards has received positive reports from his father Paul who is over in Melbourne with the 10-time Group 1 winner. “She is at Flemington at Steve Richards’ place,” he said. “Dad went over on Sunday and met her and she settled in nicely for her first night over there.”
Melody Belle had the one trial in New Zealand before heading to Melbourne, finishing third, and Richards is pleased with her ahead of her first assignment on Saturday-week, the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield. “I thought it was a pretty good trial,” Richards said.
“Initially I was a little bit disappointed, but they went breakneck speed up front and she was out of her comfort zone chasing most of the way. “She was beaten by two very sharp horses in The Bostonian and Sheezallmine. She made good, steady ground on them late, and she just looks terrific. I think she is on the way up.
“She will have a bit of work on Saturday and next Tuesday and one of those days will be at Caulfield so she can have a look around over there. “I think there will be other horses more forward than she is, that have had a run or two already, but we are trying to get her to peak for the 14th of March for the All-Star Mile.”