‘He’s pretty special:’ Trainer rides his luck with boom Kiwi
FOUR years ago Clayton Chipperfield took out a trainer's licence because he was sick of being stuck at his property and wanted to go to the races.
Chipperfield was thinking only of loading up his float and travelling to New Zealand race meetings.
Coming across the Tasman to contest major races was a wild dream, but it's happening now as he's in charge of the boom three-year-old gelding Catalyst, who makes his Australian debut in the CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on Saturday.
"I wanted to get off my property as I had spent four years breaking and pre-training all the time and that was my main motivation to start training," Chipperfield said.
"I just wanted to take the racing side more seriously and Catalyst was on the first truck that came to me. I can't believe I've got a horse like him in my care. It's pure luck how things have panned out."
Catalyst has won his past six starts and no horse has got near him in those races.
Often he's had to extricate himself from awkward spots yet still managed to win easily.
On Saturday he clashes with another boom gelding, Alligator Blood, in what could be the first of three contests as both are being aimed at the Australian Guineas and All-Star Mile.
Chipperfield, 40, has been in the industry for 25 years and carved out a successful career as a jumps jockey in New Zealand and America. He didn't ride a winner in Australia but claimed a second in the Von Doussa Steeplechase at Oakbank in 2002.
He now has 20 horses in work.
Chipperfield reflected on when Catalyst came into his life just after he had taken out a trainer's licence.
"Two horses were on the first float that came to my property. I had to make a decision which one I'd put a saddle on and which one would go to the paddock. I chose Catalyst and the rest is history," he said.
"From the moment I sat on him and trialled him I knew he was something special."
Chipperfield had a stint as a co-trainer with his father-in-law Robert Priscott for a few years but turned his back on it to do the breaking-in and pre-training predominantly for Queenslander Dick Karreman, who owns The Oaks Stud at Cambridge.
Chipperfield said he had known Karreman for 17 years but hadn't met him until Catalyst won the Avondale Guineas at Hastings last October. Karreman brought The Oaks Stud in 2002 and has raced Seachange. His stallions include Darci Brahma, the sire of Catalyst.
Chipperfield said Catalyst's first-up win in the Group 3 Yir Tiz Trophy (1200m) at Ellerslie underlined his ability.
"He got himself out of a sticky spot and then to sprint how he did with 60.5kgs where he run his last 600m in 32.10 seconds," he said. "He was eight lengths off the leader, he ran three wide throughout and won by two lengths running away. No way was he entitled to win a race like that.
"He's pretty special. I'm very happy with him."
Chipperfield can't wait to take on Alligator Blood.
"As we've won a Group 1 and he hasn't we've got to give him a kilo," he said. "No disrespect to him but I don't know how good my horse is. If Alligator Blood beats him I won't be too worried as we're giving him weight and we'll be giving him a start."
Chipperfield intends to do a lot more travelling as Catalyst will be back for the spring for The Golden Eagle or Cox Plate.
MILE HOPES ON THE LINE
Although the All-Star Mile voting leaderboard has been blacked out with only one day left to vote, 20 hopefuls will run on Saturday in a last-ditch bid to impress voters.
The final race over 1400m at Flemington has six horses in the All-Star Mile running.
Star Missile is third in the voting and is guaranteed of a run. Galaxy Raider (12th) is on the cusp of getting into the All-Star Mile, while Rox The Castle (25th), Admiral's Joker (27th), Fox Hall (50th) and Ef Troop (54th) need to produce something special to win votes.
ALL-STAR MILE ASPIRANTS IN ACTION
Over Exposure (39th)
Alligator Blood (1st), Catalyst (6th), Dalasan (5th), Soul Patch (20th)
Loving Gaby (34th)
Pretty Brazen (61st), Fascino (67th)
Admiral's Joker (27th), Ef Troop (54th), Fox Hall (50th), Galaxy Raider (13th), Rox The Castle (25th), Star Missile (3rd)
Jungle Edge (48th)
Alizee (45th), Dreamforce (77th), Verry Elleegant (44th)