Alligator Blood may have taken out round one against classy New Zealander Catalyst, but trainer Clayton Chipperfield is confident the kiwi star can bounce back in their next clash.
In an enthralling length-of-the-straight battle, Alligator Blood withstood the challenge from Catalyst to win Saturday’s Group Three C S Hayes Stakes (1400m) at Flemington.
They are equal favourites for their next clash in the Group One Australian Guineas (1600m) on February 29.
Chipperfield took the defeat on the chin, happy to get confirmation Catalyst has what it takes to measure up to the best three-year-olds in Australia.
“What a race it was and although the defeat has a sting in it, we left the course on Saturday night with a big smile on our faces,” Chipperfield told NZ Racing Desk.
“That race was all about finding out if he could match it with those top ones and I think we got the answer we were looking for.”
Chipperfield said the feedback from jockey James McDonald was also validation.
“The first thing he said was that he was looking for the 1600 metres and would be an even better horse when he gets over that distance,” Chipperfield said.
“He also felt he would be better with a sit where he could hook out and use his sprint to best effect.
“The way he jumped caught us a little bit by surprise and in the small field it dictated how he was positioned.
“It took his finishing burst out of play a little, but in a bigger field he should be able to find a position rather than doing the donkey work outside the speed.”
Chipperfield spent time on Sunday morning with Catalyst before flying home to New Zealand.
“I had expected he might be a little knackered and off his feed but all he left on Saturday night was about two handfuls,” he said.
“He ate all his hay and drank ninety per cent of his water so I couldn’t be happier.
“We put him out in his paddock this morning and he was a pretty happy chappy, full of himself and showing no signs of any muscle soreness or anything like that.
“He will have a trot up on Monday and some light work before he gets serious in the week leading into the Australian Guineas.”