By Ray Hickson
It would be the comeback story of the century – certainly in racing circles – and connections of Chautauqua say the wily grey will be given every chance for a fairytale end to his career in The Everest.
After the ‘grey flash’ failed to leave the stalls in his Rosehill trial on Monday, though, we’re far closer to nightmare than fairytale.
Part-owner Rupert Legh said on Melbourne radio, shortly after the trial, that no decision will be made in the short term on Chautauqua’s future and hasn’t lost hope of taking up his Everest slot which is owned by Legh’s fellow part-owner Greg Ingham.
“It’s disappointing but you can’t be making decisions on what I call race day and we won’t,’’ Legh said.
“It’s only July, we have plenty of time to get him ready for an Everest.
“We have that slot, and we’re not about to give that slot away. Hopefully the Hawkes’ can wave that magic wand and we will get him back to the racing, take our position in the Everest.
“Let’s hope he finishes his career and wins an Everest and it’d be a great story.’’
Those are confident words but behind them is the desire to see fan favourite horses, and legitimate superstars, take their rightful place on the track.
Racing NSW chief steward Marc Van Gestel said no official requirement has been set yet for Chautauqua to be allowed to resume racing.
It was the fifth consecutive time in an official barrier trial that Chautauqua refused to play ball with his only barrier success coming in a Flemington jump out earlier in July.
It’s widely expected the rising eight-year-old will have to pass two more barrier tests but Van Gestel said stewards will be interviewing the Hawkes partnership about their intentions going forward before anything is set in place.
“We want to see the Chautauquas run and it’d be a tragedy to see the horse retire when there is so much to offer,’’ Legh said.
“If he does it once or twice more then we’ll sit down and make a good decision at the right time when there’s not the emotion running through the system.
“I don’t think he’s lost the zest for racing, he’s just an intelligent, smart, horse. He’s just playing his own little games. You couldn’t be happier with his demeanour around the stables and on the training track.
“You can’t get a better trainer than John Hawkes and he’s done everything possible. If he can’t get him to do what he wants to do there’s no horse whisperer out there that will make him do anything different.
“If he feels it’s in the best interests of the horse to retire him then he will make that call.’’
Jockey Tommy Berry was a concerned man well before Chautauqua stepped into the barrier stalls for the 900m trial and his worst fears were realised when he refused to the leave them.
He said the five time Group 1 winner wasn’t in the same mood as he was in the Flemington jump out, which he successfully passed.
“As soon as he walked in the gates I knew he wasn’t going to jump,’’ Berry said.
“He leaned back in the barriers. The other day he was kicking around and wanted to get on with the jon but for some reason that wasn’t the case.
“Apart from that I was happy with him, he felt the same. It’s just disappointing.’’
As it stands, Chautauqua is the winner of 13 of his 32 starts for $8.8 million in prizemoney. His career highlights include three consecutive TJ Smith Stakes and a stunning win in the 2016 Chairman’s Sprint in Hong Kong.
He hasn’t raced since running fourth in the Group 1 Darley Classic at Flemington last November which followed his fourth placing in the inaugural Everest.