The excitement over the Karaka Million twilight meeting is already high for The Oaks Stud, but it could provide an even greater boost for the Cambridge establishment leading into this year’s New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales at Karaka.
One of the Ellerslie features on Saturday, the Gr.3 Henley Park Mr Tiz Trophy (1200m, will mark the reappearance of Catalyst, New Zealand’s leading three-year-old who was bred and is raced by The Oaks Stud’s Queensland-based owner Dick Karreman.
Catalyst defeated Te Akau Shark at last week’s Matamata trials to show he is on target for not only the Ellerslie event but also his first Australian campaign.
That campaign will commence with the Gr.3 C.S. Hayes Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on February 15 leading into the Gr.1 Australian Guineas (1600m) on the same track a fortnight later and possibly a start in the $A5 million All-Star Mile (1600m) at Caulfield on March 14.
The Ellerslie outing will be Catalyst’s first start since he cruised home in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) on November 9 when beating Harlech, another top-class son of Darci Brahma.
Harlech is also likely to make an appearance at the Ellerslie meeting in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) and, if both he and Catalyst prevail on the night, The Oaks Stud could not hope for a better promotion prior to the yearling sales which begin the following day.
Despite the farm having a smaller draft than previous years at Karaka with just nine yearlings in the Book 1 Sale, the offering is big on quality.
Included in the draft on the first day is Lot 139, a sister to Group Two winner Harlech who was recently runner-up to Travelling Light in the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham.
“She’s not unlike her brother Harlech,” Rick Williams, The Oaks Stud General Manager, said.
“She’s a good size, big for a Darci Brahma filly, and has got plenty of scope.”
On day two of the sale The Oaks Stud will offer Lot 439, a colt by Tavistock from the 2012 Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) winner Artistic (by Darci Brahma), who headed home a quinella for The Oaks Stud when beating Zurella.
“He’s a later foal, but in terms of him being out of an Oaks winner he should attract a lot of attention,” Williams said.
“He’s got the physical appearance to match his pedigree page and you don’t usually get that. He’s a very nice colt.”
The Oaks Stud will offer six of Darci Brahma’s dozen progeny in Book 1 and Williams is expecting most interest to come from New Zealand and Hong Kong buyers.
“Despite what Catalyst has done (and the Gr.1 2000 Guineas quinella), I don’t expect any more demand than usual from Australian buyers,” he said.
“He’s left plenty of winners over there, but most Australian buyers haven’t taken to him.
“If there is a lift for him at the sale this year I’m expecting it will be from Hong Kong after two phenomenal years up there.”
Darci Brahma provided The Oaks Stud with one of its’ most memorable sales when his first progeny went through the sale ring in 2009.
“That was a great year for us,” Williams said.
“We’ve had some other good years when a particular yearling has fetched good money and boosted the gross receipts.
“We usually have a draft of 30-odd between the two books, but this year we’ll be offering our smallest draft.
“We’ve had a lot of fillies and, if they’re going to get only $30,000 to $40,000, we’re better off keeping them and trying to win a trial with them and selling them for far more.”
In recent years Karreman made the decision to reduce his broodmare band, which peaked at approximately 120 and is currently 50.
“Dick has also decided he wants to enjoy racing good horses,” Williams said. “We’ve kept 22 yearlings and we’re hoping we might find another Catalyst!
“I always thought Catalyst was good, but he’s surprised me how good he is.
“And I’ve still got big hopes for Double Impact and Darci’s Tune, another couple of Darci Brahma’s we kept.
“Unfortunately they have had setbacks and won’t be seen again until four-year-olds.”
Catalyst has won the last five of his total of six starts with four of those wins in stakes races.
His connections, including trainer Clayton Chipperfield, are keen to test the water in Australia and Williams has been keeping a closer watch on recent racing in Victoria which has been affected by the intense fires also causing loss of air quality.
“It’s been serious in Melbourne with them having to cancel meetings and that is a factor to consider, but hopefully the rain they’re now having will help,” Williams said.
“If it turns worse we might have to reconsider our plans and stay back for the Group One 1400m at Te Rapa (BCD Group Sprint) and the Group One 1600m at Otaki (Haunui Farm WFA Group One Classic), but nobody knows what will happen over there.
“At this stage if he does well at Ellerslie he’s going over for the C.S. Hayes and his grand final will be the Australian Guineas.
“If he gets enough votes for the All-Star Mile he’ll go for that, too. Even if he does miss out on the votes, he could pick up a wild card entry if he wins the Australian Guineas.
“He’s really well and we couldn’t be happier with his trial. He’s on target for Ellerslie.” - NZ Racing Desk