The inclusion of New Zealanders in the public vote for positions in the All-Star Mile has bolstered the Kiwis’ interest in the $5 million race.
Melbourne spring Group One winner Melody Belle and her stablemate, Cox Plate placegetter Te Akau Shark, are likely contenders, with connections of New Zealand 2000 Guineas winner Catalyst also looking for a start.
Ten of the places in the All-Star Mile at Caulfield on March 14 will be decided by fans and another five will be issued by Racing Victoria officials.
Catalyst’s trainer, Clayton Chipperfield, said he, owner Dick Karreman and racing manager Rick Williams had identified the Australian Guineas on February 29 as a target but had yet to decide on lead-up races.
“We are still working out a couple of lead-up races, whether he has them back here in New Zealand or we go over to Australia in late January and have a couple of goes over there,” Chipperfield told NZ Racing Desk.
If he stays in New Zealand he could meet Melody Belle and Te Akau Shark in the Group One BCD Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa on February 8.
“We are scratching our heads whether we go to The Telegraph and then into the sprint at Te Rapa,” Chipperfield said.
“We will be coming up against Melody Belle and Te Akau Shark if we go there.
While stepping out against New Zealand’s two best horses could seem tough, Chipperfield is confident Catalyst can hold his own.
“I would like to think he would be competitive with them,” Chipperfield said.
“He has got fresher legs being a little bit younger but if we do stay home we will certainly have a test of that in the sprint at Te Rapa.”
Catalyst won all four starts during his spring campaign, culminating in his victory in the New Zealand 2000 Guineas at Riccarton in November.
“He has learnt a heck of a lot from his last campaign and it certainly puts him in good stead going into Australian racing,” Chipperfield said.
Chipperfield is also confident New Zealanders will get behind Catalyst in the All-Star Mile vote.
“He has certainly got a big following here in New Zealand,” he said