(By John Jenkins)
Catalyst set tongues wagging when he second-rated the opposition in the maiden two-year-old race at New Plymouth today.

The Darci Brahma youngster scored by 5-1/2 lengths in the 1200m event, with winning rider Michael McNab taking several looks behind in the home straight to check on how far behind the rivals were.

Catalyst, who races in the colours of Dick Karreman’s The Oaks Stud, is trained at Te Awamutu by former successful jumps jockey Clayton Chipperfield and showed a glimpse of his ability when easily winning two barrier trials in March and April.

On the strength of those two trial victories the gelding was expected to show up on debut over 1200m at Te Rapa on April 27 but only managed seventh out of 10 runners, a run that left Chipperfield mystified.

However McNab went some way to explain Catalyst’s form reversal by saying the Te Rapa track probably didn’t suit the horse, especially as it was his first start, and he was a vastly different horse today.

“They thought that’s what he would do first up,” McNab said.

“He ran in a strong race then but as we know that Te Rapa track can throw that sand back at you and it may have got him a bit off his game. But he was sharp today.”

McNab positioned Catalyst perfectly in the trail before moving him up three-wide to challenge the leaders on the home turn. Once in the straight the gelding quickly accelerated clear and his winning margin could have been a lot more had the rider really extended him over the final stages.

Chipperfield said he may now look at black type races for Catalyst, with the Listed $50,000 Castletown Stakes (1200m) at Wanganui on June 1 a potential assignment.

McNab is confident the horse will measure up in stronger company saying he “smashed them” today.

“I think it’s onwards and upwards for him,” he added.