Chris Waller breathes easy as Catkins strikes again

CHRIS Waller admits he feels extra pressure training the fan favourite of Sydney racing, Catkins.

“She is a lovely horse, always gives her all, and you become so protective of them because you don’t like to see her getting beaten,’’ Waller said.

“When you are training these good mares like Catkins and Red Tracer, you feel that different type of pressure but fortunately they win more often than not.’’

Catkins, popular with racegoers due to her striking grey colour and remarkable consistency, was at her brilliant best again to win the Group 2 $175,000 Millie Fox Stakes (1300m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.

It was Waller’s fourth consecutive win in the feature mares race after Red Tracer’s hat-trick from 2012-14.

Catkins had to show her versatility as she was surprisingly ridden from off the speed, giving a start to her rivals before running them down.

Champion jockey Hugh Bowman said he had to ease back early or risk being trapped wide.

“The race was run at a genuine speed the entire way and that helped Catkins,’’ Bowman said.

“I was a bit ‘panicky’ at the top of the straight because Avoid Lightning had her way out into the open and I could sense she was going well.

“But I had done very little work on Catkins and in the end her class prevailed.’’

Catkins started at generous odds of $2.30 favouritism and returned to generous applause from Rosehill racegoers after finishing too well for Plucky Belle ($21) to score by a half length with Avoid Lightning ($3.50) tiring near the line and finishing third, nearly a length away.

This was Catkins’s 14th career win (plus 10 placings) from 29 starts, taking her prizemoney to just short of $1.5 million.

Catkins has been racing at a high level for three years and all that is lacking on her outstanding record is a Group 1 win.

Waller and Bowman both believe the mare can secure that major race win she so richly deserves this autumn campaign.

“I will probably go to the Canterbury Stakes in two weeks, the same race we ran Red Tracer last year,’’ Waller said. “Then it will be the Emancipation Stakes at 1500m before the Queen of the Turf Stakes at Randwick.

“The Coolmore Classic is an option but I’m worried it might break her heart having to carry too much weight.’’

Even though the Group 1 $1 million Queen of the Turf (1600m) on day two of The Championships at Royal Randwick on April 11 will be Catkins’s fifth start for the autumn, Waller is not concerned.

“She needs a bit of racing as she is quite thick-winded,’’ Waller said.

Plucky Belle ran a much improved race for second while Avoid Lightning loomed up to win but perhaps found the 1300m first-up beyond her as she tired in the last 100m.


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