By Brad Gray
The Hawkes stable generally don’t buy into public opinion and that’s not about to change ahead of the TAB Everest where they’ll saddle up Chautauqua.
There is a division among punters. Those who believe that the evergreen grey is simply giving away too big of a start to reel in a stellar field of sprinters while those loyal to the ‘Grey Flash’ are rubbing their hands together at the prospect of his price in the market.
“One thing you can’t do with champions is you can’t forget about them,” said co-trainer Michael Hawkes.
“Whether he is under the radar or not, people have their own opinion, but he is on song. We’ve set him for this race all along and can’t fault him.
“It wouldn’t matter if he is $2 or $10 on the day as long as he wins that’s all that matters to us.”
It’s not a dissimilar lead in to Chautauqua’s most recent spring where come grand final day in the TJ Smith Stakes he silenced the doubters with a stunning victory.
“First up last preparation he was at Caulfield and he ran a good race even though everybody thought it was just fair. His sectionals told the story. Then he was second up in the Canterbury Stakes and probably should have won. Third up we took on Winx and was then the forgotten horse,” recalled Hawkes.
“That said, you are never completely under the radar with this sort of horse. He owes us nothing. He has won six Group Ones and won at international level. He is the best sprinter in the world at the moment and has already done it. He doesn’t have to prove anything. Everyone expects horses to win all the time but that’s not what he is about.
“He is in the right frame of mind and exactly where you want him to be. He was always going to be third up here.
“This race was always going to be a lot different to the previous two. His first up run was outstanding. They ran hard over 1100m and second up he was good too. There was speed taken out midrace, they slowed up and he had some kick back in his face from the track. There will be a lot of speed generated and with a bit of luck, he’ll be right there.”
Chautauqua will be put through his paces tomorrow morning at Rosehill Gardens before Hawkes will keep him “ticking over” ahead of the weekend’s $10m assignment.
If Chautauqua was to collect the winners’ cheque of $5.8m in the inaugural running of the TAB Everest he would skip Winx, for now, as the second highest earner in Australian racing and close the gap to $349,755 from Makybe Diva who amassed $14,526,690 over her career.