New Zealand news briefs

Trans-Tasman plans for Catalyst

Tony Pike is looking forward to spring racing with his new acquisition Catalyst.

The rising five-year-old son of Darci Brahma won six of his 10 races for former trainer Clayton Chipperfield, five of which were at stakes level, including the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m).

He hasn’t raced since pulling up lame in the Gr.2 The Shorts (1100m) at Randwick in September, with owner Dick Karreman and his racing manager Rick Williams electing to take a cautious approach with his return.

Catalyst joined Pike’s barn a couple of months ago and the Cambridge trainer has been pleased with what he has seen from the gelding so far.

“He has had a little break since he had an issue at the tail end of his last preparation, but he seems to be back to his best and hopefully he holds together for us heading into the spring,” Pike told Racing HQ.

“We have only had him for a couple of months now, but going through his form, 1400m up to a mile is going to be ideal for him.

“He is quite a brilliant horse with a lovely action and he settles pretty well in his races.”

Catalyst’s initial spring targets will lie in his homeland, with Pike eyeing some Australian assignments if he comes up well enough.

“He is going to have a barrier trial here on August 3,” Pike said. “He will trial again on the 17th of August. He will likely have two runs here in New Zealand in the Foxbridge Plate (Gr.2, 1200m) and the Tarzino Trophy, the 1400m Group One at Hawke’s Bay.

“If we think we have got him back to his best there are two options for him, one is Sydney or else there are a couple of nice races in Melbourne, like the Toorak (Gr.1, 1600m).”

Pike is also looking to Australia with exciting juvenile Tutukaka, who will head to Melbourne this spring with his ultimate aim being the Gr.1 Victoria Derby (2500m).

The Tavistock gelding had a pleasing two-year-old campaign, placing in his first three starts, including the Listed The Phoenix (1500m) at Eagle Farm, before winning the Listed Tattersall’s Life Member Stakes (1830m) at the Brisbane track.

He has since returned to New Zealand for a short break before returning to Pike’s Cambridge barn next week in preparation for the spring.  

“He is out at the spelling farm at the moment, he is due back in at the stables on Monday,” Pike said.

“The spring comes around pretty quick in Melbourne, so he was only going to have a two-and-a-half-week break before getting ready.

“We have mapped out a rough programme for him heading into Melbourne, with his first run likely to be in the Exford Plate (Listed, 1400m) on the 11th of September.

“I am really happy with the way he has come home. A trip like that is really going to make a man of him going into the spring and I am definitely not concerned about getting him up to the Derby distances.”

Pike is also excited about the prospects of a couple of other youngsters in his barn ahead of next season.

“They are probably our nicest bunch of young horses heading into the spring,” Pike said. 

“We will probably stay here for our Guineas races, but we would like to think we could get a few to Sydney in the autumn.

“I have got a really nice Not A Single Doubt colt called Doubtful Sound that I hold in pretty high regard. I have a few others that I think are up to stakes company.” 

Opunake Cup test for Tavis Court

Although New Plymouth Raceway is on Tavis Court’s backdoor-step, the seasoned Hawera galloper will have his first start at the Taranaki track this weekend.

The five-year-old gelding will line-up in the Listed Powerworx Opunake Cup (1400m) on Saturday and trainer Anna Clement is hoping he performs well on what was rated a Heavy11 surface on Wednesday morning.

“Tavis Court has actually never seen New Plymouth racecourse, so that is a little bit of a disadvantage for us, but we are there to try and win, so we will give it a go,” Clement said.

“He doesn’t like it really heavy, but his class gets him through.”

The son of Tavistock heads into Saturday in good form, having won twice and placed three times in his five starts this preparation, and Clement sees no reason why that run of form can’t continue this weekend.

“He has trained on really well since his last start, we are really happy,” she said.

“He won really well last start and Charlotte (O’Beirne) rode him really well. Winning a race is never easy but he showed a lot of class.”

His recent run of form has been a tonic for Clement after Tavis Court bled in December last year and underwent a mandatory stand-down period before resuming in May.

“Last year he bled, which was really devastating for us, but he has shown no signs of it this time back in,” Clement said. “It is always in the back of your mind, but we have just got to press on and try and forget about it.”

Clement will also line-up Cheeky Azz in the Revital Fertilisers 1400 and Miss Dixie in the Sinclair Electrical & Refrigeration SC Maiden (1400m).

“Cheeky Azz has been a little bit disappointing this time back in,” Clement said. “I have got Charlotte (O’Beirne) back on him again and she has won on him. He likes a heavy track, so I am hoping for improvement.

“Miss Dixie has had two starts at New Plymouth and she hasn’t done that well yet, but I have got Lisa (Allpress) on again and she knows the horse, so hopefully she can run a good race.” 

Half Of Nothing secures bonus at Avondale

Trainer Wayne Hillis has been chasing the Pearl Series Bonus with his filly Half Of Nothing for the last three months, and they finally captured their prize at Avondale on Wednesday.

The daughter of Redwood has contested four previous NZB Pearl Series Races, for three placings, and she finally broke through for her maiden win with a determined run over 1200m on a Heavy11 surface.

After tardily away from the gates, Half Of Nothing settled towards the rear of the field for jockey Erin Leighton. Turning for home she was 10 lengths off leader Perfectionist, but Leighton kept a cool head and stayed on the rail where Half Of Nothing was able to storm home late to win by a long head over Bendermerry, with a further short neck back to She’s Dashing in third.

Hillis was delighted with the win and securing the $11,500 Pearl Series bonus for her connections.

“I am rapt with her run and it was good for the horse to get the bonus, we were chasing it,” he said. 

“I was actually expecting her to be a bit handier, so turning for home I thought we weren’t much show, but she ran home well.

“She is the most seasoned one of the race, so when the others were starting to hit a brick wall, she kept coming.

“She has always been honest. She was weak early on, but she is just strengthening up now. She has kept on improving and learning and has put it all together now.”

Hillis was also pleased for Erin Leighton, who has been apprenticed to the Matamata horseman for the last three months.

“Erin has been flying,” Hillis said. “She has got a good work ethic and does it all herself really because she gets out and rides work for everyone. I have only got a small team so I can only give her so many rides.”

Hillis underwent a hip replacement a couple of months ago, but is now out and about, and was able to welcome back Half Of Nothing to the winner’s stall on Wednesday. 

“I had a hip replacement 10 weeks ago today,” he said. “I have been riding work since the beginning of last week. 

“In the last two or three years I have been in a lot of pain and as soon as it was done there was no pain at all. I am stoked.”