By Brad Gray
“It’s going to take a good one to beat him.”
That was the ominous warning Brenton Avdulla fired to his rivals ahead of Saturday’s $500,000 Group Two Premiere Stakes (1200m) where the ‘Grey Flash’ will be out to cement his spot at the peak of The TAB Everest market.
The seven-year-old returned with a slashing run in The Shorts which sees Avdulla, who was having his first race ride on the evergreen sprinter, head into the spring with no doubt that Chautauqua has picked up where he left off in the autumn.
“He gives you a false sense in his trials. He doesn’t break any records so you’re not 100% sure but I was always promised that when I let him go race day and the cylinders fired up that he’d let rip, which he did,” Avdulla revealed.
“We’re two weeks away from the main race but he couldn’t have been more impressive first up. With good horses a lot can happen one prep to another and you wonder if they have come back or not.
“I saw him work (Tuesday) morning and he looks terrific. I’m sure he is going to improve again off Saturday but it is going to take a good one to beat him.”
Chautauqua has drawn barrier 3 in the Premiere Stakes but nothing will change for the three-time TJ Smith winner with Avdulla to shift him through his gears at the top of the straight.
“He is a funny horse and not one that accelerates off the mark but builds his momentum and sustains his speed a lot longer than a lot of horses. Winx does that and that’s why she is so good and he is the same,” Avdulla said.
“You don’t see many horses break 11s for four furlongs and he did it in the middle of the race (in The Shorts). The Hawkes team have got him in really good order and I’m looking forward to riding him. We’re there in the semi-final to be ready for the grand final in two weeks’ time.”
Meanwhile, Avdulla will also pilot Big Duke in the $750,000 Group One The Metropolitan (2400m) for Darren Weir and Australian Bloodstock, and despite running ingloriously at Caulfield last start, Avdulla wouldn’t be surprised to see the stayer find his best form in Sydney.
“I thought his run on Saturday was a little plain but in saying that this has always been the target for him. I have won plenty of races before with horses on the backup that haven’t performed to their peak the run before,” Avdulla said.
“He handled himself really well in previous preps and he is probably a bit stiff not to be unbeaten at the distance. He has run third in a Sydney Cup and won a Chairman’s here. He has his chance to win a Metrop and I think he has found his right race to run really well in.”