Trainer Clayton Chipperfield will rely on natural improvement and some weight relief rather than tinker with the gear worn by Catalyst (NZ) as he attempts to reverse the result of last Saturday’s thrilling Group 3 C.S. Hayes Stakes (1400m) in a rematch with Alligator Blood in two weeks at Flemington.
Catalyst is unbeaten in blinkers – stringing together five wins with the headgear last year – but Chipperfield said on Monday that he believes his horse does not need the shades to produce a peak performance and turn the tables on the Queensland horse in the $750,000 Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) on February 29.
"It’s probably better we don’t put them on because if it ends up another dogfight like that, we’d like for Catalyst to be able to see what’s right beside him," Chipperfield told RSN 927’s Racing Pulse.
"To beaten a half head by an absolute superstar gives us more confidence going into the mile.
"To be off the bridle and have a dogfight for so long and for neither horse to give up was phenomenal to watch and the feedback we are getting is unbelievable. "We are going to see a different horse going into the mile race at even weights that’s for sure."
Catalyst (NZ) (left) and Alligator Blood, picture Quentinjlang.com
Catalyst fell just a few centimetres short of reeling in Alligator Blood but Chipperfield said his horse carried a kilogram more than his rival at the set weights and penalty scale and would benefit so much from his first start in Australia.
"I left the racecourse thinking we’d won," he said.
"I was absolutely chuffed with his effort. We used that race to really answer any questions as to whether he can be competitive.
"There’s improvement there for sure. He’s looking for a mile. He needed that first-up run at Ellerslie as he had a good blow and he also had a healthy blow on Saturday as well, although he did pull up very good.
"Nothing really phases him. I don’t think the big crowd and the big track was too much of an issue. Going back to Flemington (for the Guineas) will be an advantage of course but I just want to get to that mile race as that’s the race we’ve set him for."
Jockey James McDonald pulled something of a surprise early in last Saturday’s 1400-metre race when he positioned the horse forward and outside of the leader and hot favourite Alligator Blood.
Chipperfield explained the results in the first few races on the day dictated a change in tactics.
"A few days leading into the race we thought we’d go back from that barrier draw and try and slingshot him (Alligator Blood) but the first three races on the day were on-pace (winners) so we changed our plans pretty quickly," he said.
"We thought we can’t let Alligator Blood get too far away from us because we will not catch him. What he did (jump and go forward) was great to see.
"I didn’t think he would do that because he’s been pretty slow out over here, but he put himself right in the race and didn’t have to do a lot to get there and have Alligator Blood in his view the whole way."