Williams bullish on the future of Catalyst and The Oaks Stud
The Group 1 winner Catalyst was back in action at Cambridge practice on Thursday and pleased his connections by finishing second behind teammate Marchioness in a shot on goal over 950m.
The dominant force as a three-year-old in the spring and summer of his year in New Zealand, Catalyst has only run once in the past 18 months, when he injured himself after having followed the peloton home in Group 2 The Shorts (1100m) last spring.
The five-year-old is having his first campaign for trainer Tony Pike, after his former trainer Clayton Chipperfield retired from training, and Darci Brahma’s son presented a significantly more mature horse at Cambridge on Thursday.
Ridden by Dick Karreman of The Oaks Stud, Catalyst has options on both sides of the Tasman, with relations delighted to see the galloper maintain his enthusiasm for the race.
“He weighs 40 to 50 pounds more than he was when he was three, so he’s definitely muscular,” said The Oaks Stud general manager Rick Williams.
âHe hasn’t run for a year, but he’s been in and out of the water treadmill so he’s never spent a lot of time in the paddock.
âI’m delighted with him and he shot well this morning (Friday). He had a substantial blow, so that should help him clean it up well.
Catalyst will likely be on trial again with races such as Group 2 Valachi Downs Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa and Group 1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at potential launch points in Hawke’s Bay.
Williams is wary of the Te Rapa trail given the Catalyst stranded on the sandy surface early in his career, while the galloper is 23rd in order of entry for the Hawke’s Bay mission, which has an ability of 16 runners.
âWhen he started there for the first time he was beaten when we thought he was a safe bet. The Foxbridge is the obvious race, but I’m just nervous to go, âhe said.
âWe take it one day at a time and one try at a time. There are other options. If the situation arises, we will go to Australia, where there are a lot of options, but I would prefer to give it a race in New Zealand first.
Meanwhile, Williams has confirmed that after an absence from the sales ring at Karaka last year, The Oaks Stud will be showing horses for sale at both the New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run sale and the National Yearling Sale. January.
âWe have six foals from Darci Brahma going to the Ready to Run sale and we have 16 foals from various stallions entered for the yearling sale next year,â he said.
âWe will keep our fillies.
âWe definitely broke a lot of yearlings last season, probably around 30.
âWe have lovely three year olds who just turned three and by the fall we will have quite a few two year olds at work.
âA three year old filly that I like named Gwithian Bay placed well third yesterday and is close to racing. It was an Iffraaj filly that we bought from Haunui Farm, and we bought another filly this year.
Williams called the three-year-old fillies Chanel and Arabian Sea as horses to watch, while there are also several Darci Brahma geldings in the stud’s race and trade team that have shown great promise.
âUnless we have a very mature and fairly advanced horse, and come from a two year old family, we tend not to do a lot of spring and summer racing with two year old horses.
âWe usually bring them into the New Year and horses like Recite and Chant, which won group races before Christmas, were exceptions for The Oaks racing team. We are really trying to target the Guineas and the Oaks and we have had a lot of success. “
Williams is no longer on the board of directors of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, but is happy to see the Cambridge synthetic track, which was accelerated while he was manager, play a key role in preparing horses for winter and In early spring.
As the breeding season approaches, Williams looks forward to the arrival of shuttle stallion Coolmore US Navy Flag, who will join The Oaks Stud after two seasons at downsized Valachi Downs, and will complete the Proven stallions Darci Brahma, Niagara and Roc de Cambes owned by Cambridge.
âIt’s been a busy few years with the subdivision of some land here at The Oaks and we’re looking ahead, and it certainly looks a lot brighter now,â said Williams in reference to the positive announcements in New Zealand racing. .
âThis is one of the reasons, besides the fact that I love his offspring, that we fly the US Navy flag. It seemed crazy to me to let a horse of this caliber escape New Zealand and I was going to use it anyway.
âWe certainly haven’t ruled out standing stallions in the future, so we’re going to keep an open mind about this. It was just that over the last few years it was probably difficult to encourage Dick to invest more in stallion terms with the drop in foal production and the struggling prize money, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel now.
The stud has been keen to maintain a brood mare count of just over 50 mares in recent years after peaking at 120 at one point.
âThe most important thing now is to have staff. We can’t get the staff and the government won’t let us bring them in overseas, which is a huge factor, âWilliams said.
The experienced stud manager is positive as the breeding season approaches and was delighted to see the offspring of venerable stallion Darci Brahma enjoying another strong season, including coming close to securing Group 1 New Zealand 1000 (1600m) and 2000 Guineas (1600m) doubled with Kahma Lass and Bourbonaire (second behind Aegon).
He also sired Hong Kong Derby winner (2000m) at Sky Darci and Hong Kong Sprint Cup Group 2 winner (1200m) Amazing Star, in addition to Australian Group winners Sierra Sue and Trumbull.
âI am sure there will be good interest in Hong Kong for his foals on the Ready To Run sale and there is a huge demand in Australia for promising horses,â said Williams.
âThe numbers we got for our stallions are pretty much the same. Darci has served around 100 each year.
âUS Navy Flag is getting good reservations for a third season stallion and that’s thanks to his weaned foals (now yearlings). There is a lot of repeat business, but there are new guys coming to him so it’s quite interesting, he has a good reputation on him.
âThey will make great yearlings. He has a world class pedigree, he was a world class racehorse and it would have been just crazy if he had left New Zealand at this point in his career.