Chautauqua is our best sprinter since Black Caviar

Tristan Rayner Editor

By , Tristan Rayner is a Roar Editor

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    How will Chautauqua fare in the Manikato after The Everest? (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

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    Who would disagree that Chautauqua is our best elite sprinter since the best ever in Black Caviar?

    ‘The Grey Flash’ won his third Group 1 TJ Smith (1200m), now worth $2.5m, in a magnificent last to first win, coming from the clouds in the final 200 metres at Royal Randwick.

    It was an extraordinary win for his trainers in Team Hawkes for a number of reasons, and not just visually, on the first day of The Championships.

    First of all, the stalking grey hadn’t been at his best since his glorious win in Hong Kong, another last to first finish. That was his last win, coming in May 2016. He’d had five starts without a win, his longest ever dry spell. Many had written him off for the 2017 TJ Smith.

    Second, he was last and a long last coming to the home turn, on a day when almost nothing else had made ground from the back. And instead of coming down the outside as is his usual want (the worst part of the track on Saturday), jockey Tommy Berry was forced to come through other horses.

    After the race, the Hawkes team revealed how they’d orchestrated the race perfectly. Brothers Michael and Wayne Hawkes were on the course, with father John at home providing the key insight.

    “Before the race, you thought he couldn’t win with the track bias,” said Wayne Hawkes.

    “He (John) said to Michael stay near the fence, stay near the fence, cut up the inside, don’t come to the outside. That was the difference between him winning and losing.”

    Third, he was coming back from the George Ryder over 1500m, where he gave a credible effort in finishing third to Winx. Yes, he was more than eight lengths off her, but so is every other horse in Australia it would seem. Stepping back in distance for a sprinter didn’t seem the best preparation for this.

    A special part of the race was the call of Darren Flindell who went from excited racecaller to excited race fan in those final 200 metres.

    The words (“Can he do it?! YES!”) might not become an immortal phrasing like the ‘Bonecrusher racing into equine immortality’ call, but the passion behind the words was fantastic.

    Flindell would’ve been waiting for something from the always-late six-year-old, but no one expected him to finish quite like this.

    Take a look at Gai Waterhouse cheering on her steed in English for how it feels to be run down by one of the greats.

    Blake Shinn, on-board the beaten mare, said similar.

    “You never go the early crow when Chautauqua’s in the race and I wasn’t going to do that today but I really felt all over a winner everywhere bar the post and from nowhere the big grey came and got me but terrific effort from my mare.”

    From 28 starts, Chautauqua has now won six Group 1s, including in Hong Kong, and placed in seven more at the top level. It’s hugely impressive for a backmarker who always has to rely on more than a fair share of luck to steam home late.

    He’s likely to be spelled now for The Everest, where connections paid up for a $600,000 slot.

    While he’s still racing as a gelding he can continue to build his career, but for mine, in a rich vintage of sprinters, he’s already our best since Black Caviar.

    Lankan Rupee and Buffering were both outstanding sprinters, but Chautauqua has equalled or beaten them on Group 1 wins (six) and prizemoney ($8.4m).

    He’s probably not quite up to the level of the Apache Cats, Takeover Targets, Schillacis, and the like, even with recency bias kicking in.

    But if he keeps racing on, it’s not out of the question, which is hugely exciting.

    Go the grey!

    Tristan Rayner
    Tristan Rayner

    Tristan is a writer, consultant, racing enthusiast and former Editor of The Roar who has turned the Melbourne Cup into a year-round study via racingtalk.com.au.

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