"You can’t beat what you can’t catch” is a saying that has been used in horse racing since at least 1943. The saying has also been used in auto racing—there is a popular Chevy racing T-shirt with the saying printed on the back.
‘You can’t hit what you can’t catch” is both a boxing and a hockey saying. “You can’t hit what you can’t see” is a baseball saying.
30 April 1943, Greensboro (NC) Record, “They Know But They Still Lose on Horses” by Lawton Carver (INS), pg. 10, col. 8:
“Naw-suh, no horse can beat Count Fleet,” a black groom said. “You can’t beat what you can’t catch,” he added.
Google News Archive
17 March 1994, Ocala (FL) Star-Banner, “Holy Bull rewrites ancient fable” by Bill Giauque, pg. 7D, col. 1:
Holy Bull gave testament to the racetrack truism which says “you can’t beat, what you can’t catch.”
18 October 1997, Daily Herald (Chicago, IL), sec. 2, pg. 10, col. 1:
Zion-Benton 47, Mundelein 12
“You can’t beat what you can’t catch.”
That was the problem Mundelein had Friday night in Zion, where the Mustangs spent a lot of time looking at the backs of Zion-Benton runners.
The Story of the New Orleans Hornets
By Sara Gilbert
Mankato, MN: Creative Education
Then Johnson, dressed as his own Grandmama, complete with a gold tooth, dunked on quivering opponents, saying, “Remember— you can’t beat what you can’t catch.” The television spots aired in 1994, but they still rank as one of the most successful sports advertising campaigns.
Los Angeles (CA) Daily News
Joe Talamo rides pair of stakes winners at Santa Anita Park
By Art Wilson, Correspondent
POSTED: 06/14/14, 8:13 PM PDT
ARCADIA – There’s an old adage in horse racing that you can’t beat what you can’t catch, and there was no catching jockey Joe Talamo on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.