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THE SUNSHINE COAST NEWSPAPER COLUMN: PUTTING RACING IN THE SPOTLIGHT FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS

By Graham Potter | Sunday, February 23, 2020

Graham Potter writes a weekly column for the Sunshine Coast daily. Due to demand from those having trouble accessing the paper these columns are now also published on HRO courtesy of the Sunshine Coast daily.

In racing there are designated ‘match races,’ a usually specially organised contest between two very good horses They are a rare occurrence but they have been around a long time. In fact, if you go back over eighty years to 1938, you will find the great tale of Seabiscuit and War Admiral’s wonderful match race at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course.

Then there are ‘match races’ that evolve within a normal race itself. That happens when two superior protagonists go head to head in such an intense fashion that the balance of the field become little more than spectators.

That happened last Saturday in the CS Hayes Stakes where the Sunshine Coast champion Alligator Blood and the Kiwi horse Catalyst joined issue a long way out in in what became an absolutely riveting two-way fight for the honours.

Alligator Blood’s jockey Ryan Maloney had called it early. He had turned to rival rider James McDonald after the field had gone 100m and said, ‘we’ve got a match race here,’ but even he couldn’t have envisaged the sheer intensity of the battle that was about to unfold.

“Both horses wanted to win,” explained Maloney. “So many times in the straight I thought ‘this horse has got me,’ but Al just refused to give in. It doesn’t matter how good they are, you can’t teach that to a horse.

"They got to want to do it.

"When that combination of quality and attitude kicks in … well, that’s what makes Alligator Blood so special and you can understand why he has built up a cult following.

“The last twenty metres … it was like knew he needed a last big effort. He stretched his neck out … that wasn’t me helping him do that. The horse did it himself. It’s something I have never experienced before. Without doubt, that result gave me my biggest thrill in racing.”
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That sentiment was echoed by trainer David Vandyke who had gone through a real roller coaster ride of emotion as Alligator Blood and Catalyst traded punch for punch down the home straight.

“I thought he was beaten five or six times but he was so strong, “said Vandyke. “He has matured a lot. He’s completely versatile. He can take a sit. He can lead and he can come from the back. He is really a complete racehorse."

It was a race that will long be remembered but it also added spice to upcoming events in which Alligator Blood and Catalyst are due to clash again.

Just what that battle royal took out of each horse remains to be seen. Races like that do take their toll so the chances are that we won’t see a repeat battle of the C S Hayes race magnitude. But then again, maybe the Alligator Blood v Catalyst Part 1 was just the beginning of a great rivalry.

We just don’t know and, however it pans out, when that ever-present ‘unknown’ factor comes with a raised level of anticipation, as it does here, it becomes a mouth-watering prospect … the kind on which racing thrives!

Alligator Blood and Catalyst can take a bow, not least for the fact they have put racing in the spotlight for all the right reasons.

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Ryan Maloney … David Vandyke … and Alligator Blood
Ryan Maloney … David Vandyke … and Alligator Blood
Photos: Graham Potter and Darren Winningham
Photos: Graham Potter and Darren Winningham
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