At the rate he is improving after his disappointing start, Katak will be a force to be reckoned with in the first feature of the year – the $1 million Group 1 Kranji Mile over 1,600m on May 21.
Well-schooled by trainer Ricardo Le Grange for the Shirtliffs of Vasco Stable, the South African-bred who was unbeaten in five starts back home, including three Group 3s, is starting to show his true class by making it back-to-back at Kranji on Saturday.
His victory in the $100,000 Kranji Stakes A event over 1,600m appeared even more authoritative than his previous start over 1,400m in Class 2 on Jan 22.
The five-year-old bay gelding was unplaced in his first two starts at Kranji, before bouncing back for a half-length second to Hard Too Think in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup over 1,800m last Oct 16.
He followed up with a fourth behind Horse of the Year Lim’s Lightning in the $1 million Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup over 2,000m on Nov 14. That was a brave effort, considering that he was lame on the left fore just a couple of days before the time-honoured race.
After four outings, the real Katak resurfaced with his two wins on the trot, both with jockey Danny Beasley astride.
Le Grange, who is now sharing top spot with Tim Fitzsimmons and Daniel Meagher at the top of the premiership table with 12 winners, was pleasantly surprised with Katak’s vast improvement.
“His mannerisms are more those of a real racehorse now. He has improved so much,” said the genial South African.
“Danny jumped off saying he is looking for a mile and a quarter (2,000m) and even a mile and a half (2,400m).
“He’s so much easier to train now, and to see him win like that and still cry for more ground, it’s scary.
“It’s always a pleasure to have Danny on. He rode the horse beautifully, and it’s exciting times for Marsh and Guy and Bryn.”
While Katak’s first Kranji success was forged with some degree of challenge, Saturday’s had shades of a one-way traffic once Beasley drove him to the lead.
Heartening Flyer, his last-start runner-up, did keep him honest throughout. But, in reality, Katak was always under a firm grip and travelling on the bit.
When Beasley slipped some reins to the $8 hot shot at the top of the straight, all doubts whether his last win could be a one-off were allayed from the moment he skipped away.
With Heartening Flyer beaten, it was long shot Sacred Croix who finished the best among the beaten brigade. He lost by two lengths.
The winning time was a smart 1min 35.61sec for the 1,600m on the Short Course A.
“This is the South African horse back to the fore,” said Beasley.
“As Ricky said before, his first prep was too quick. He needed more time to settle in.
“He has improved a lot from his first win, just from the way he travels underneath you. Ricky has done a wonderful job with him and you can feel it every time you ride him.
“There is no doubt he needs further, up to 2,400m. But, unfortunately, we don’t have such races here.
“He wouldn’t be out of place in New Zealand and would also be competitive over a mile and a half in pretty good company in Australia.
“He will only get better with more racing. There’s still more improvement to come out of him.”
Katak has taken his local prize money to just over the $200,000 mark for Vasco Stable. More will pour in soon.