By Ray Hickson
Tommy Berry knew as soon as Chautauqua walked into the barrier stalls the superstar grey had his game face on.
He was a bit cranky, lively in the stalls and then, crucially, sprung out of the gates.
And with that ‘the Grey Flash’ is one step closer to taking his place in the $13 million The Everest in October.
“You pretty much know as soon he walks in the barriers if he’s going to jump,’’ Berry said.
“He was alive and about where, from as I understand talking to Brenton (Avdulla), when he didn’t jump he was quiet in the barriers.
“If he didn’t jump I would have been able to tell you a lot more because it would have been something different. He felt like he usually does, he was in an annoying mood and that’s usually the way he is so it’s nice to see.’’
The 800m jump out at Flemington was the first of two barrier tests required by stewards before Chautauqua, rated the world’s best sprinter until less than a year ago, is allowed to return to racing after he failed to leave the stalls on four occasions in the autumn.
Racing NSW chief steward Marc Van Gestel confirmed the barrier test has been recognised and now the focus will turn to an official trial likely on July 23 at Rosehill.
That trial session, and possibly the same trial, is shaping as the first appearance of Winx for this preparation.
Once Chautauqua ticks that box Hawkes Racing has indicated the Group 2 Missile Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on August 4 would be the five-time Group 1 winner’s first-up assignment.
His appearance there would add further spice to a field that is expected to include the likes of Kementari, Pierata, She Will Reign and Le Romain.
Berry’s official return to Sydney racing is likely to coincide with Chautauqua’s resumption in the Missile following the final meeting of the Hong Kong season this Sunday.
He said aside from the interest in Chautauqua leaving the barriers the rising eight-year-old felt as good as ever – and it’s been a while too as Berry last rode the gelding to win his third TJ Smith Stakes back in April 2017.
“He jumped really well but aside from that he felt amazing, we have one more hurdle to jump but he’s in a great frame of mind,’’ he said.
“Credit to the Hawkes team, they’ve taken their time with him.
“Hopefully what’s happened with him in the past is another little page in his book because it’d be disappointing if he went out as a horse who didn’t jump.’’
Horses with quirks and odd personality traits are no stranger to Berry who of course partnered Hong Kong’s cult hero Pakistan Star to a Group 1 win back in May.
“Most horses I’ve ridden with quirks have been very good horses,’’ Berry said.
“He and Chautauqua have something in common there. It’s always a bit heart in mouth when you ride horses like that but you get a lot of satisfaction at the end of the day they reward you as well.
“Chautauqua was the best sprinter in the world at one stage. I don’t care about me, it’s about the horse. He’s a champion and it’d be great to see him always recognised as a champion.’’
TAB has Chautauqua on the $15 line for the Everest and is assured a slot in the race given part-owner Greg Ingham is one of the 12 slot holders.