Is This The End Of The “Grey Flash”

All eyes of the nation and possibly those overseas who are following the career of Chautauqua were on the “Grey Flash” at Moonee Valley along with the massive crowd on track to see what lies ahead for the champion sprinter as he lined up in his second barrier trial under race conditions.

By now the result is all over Social Media, the stunning grey appears to have lost his flash as yet again he failed to jump, deciding to stay in the barriers despite the encouragement from jockey Tommy Berry. The response from the on course crowd could be heard in the broadcast and as the grey left the track, was met with cheers and whistles.

Now connections associated with the horse are faced with the decision regarding the future, however a decision that may be taken away from them and made by the stewards.

The past 12 months have been well documented as on this night 12 months ago the champ was the centre of up roar as he was spectuatuly scratched at the barriers from the Group 1 Manikato Stakes, a decision made by the on course vet that was met with a defeaning boo from the crowd. Chautauqua also showing his anger by kicking out behind the barriers and being quite the handful.

If this is the end of the racing career, no matter what lies ahead for the grey gelding he will forever been a champion in the Australian Racing history books and gave so many people the thrill that comes with horse racing. A brief look at the career of the grey champ that owes nobody anything more.

In 2012 at the annual Inglis Easter Yearling Sales at the historic Newmarket complex was

Chautauqua as a yearling
Chautauqua as a yearling

the first time we laid eyes on the future champion sprinter, back then he was simply Lot 253, the grey colt by Encosta De Lago x Lovely Jubly. This young colt was destined to be something special, out of one of the greats on the track in Encosta De Lago his mother was also a multiple Group 1 winning filly/mare. The vendors of the colt had a high opinion of him that a reserve of $400,000 was placed on him, unfortunately the future champion was passed in at $300,000k.

For those not familiar with the term, Passed In simply means that the reserve that is placed on a horse has not been met- therefore the horse has not sold. With these horses they are returned to their stables and should anyone be interested in purchasing the horse then a private deal can be done, simply by approaching the vendor.

Before long the young grey horse was sent to one of the best in the business in John Hawkes and his trainer partnership with sons Michael and Wayne- more commonly referred to as Team Hawkes.

The next time we laid eyes on the young horse was at Seymour in Victoria on the 20th October when he ran 2nd on debut, only beaten by 0.1 of a length. In his second career start he notched up another second placing, again being beaten by less than a length- showing potential and promise that he would be one to watch in the future.

The grey then steps out at Geelong in March 2014 and at just his third career start breaks his maiden status. He is then sent up from the Team Hawkes Flemington stable to their Rosehill base and steps out in a barrier trial at the end of March, winning the trial.  His first New South Wales appearance was at the central coast town of Gosford in the listed Gosford Guineas of 2014 where he finished 2nd on a heavy 10 behind talented sprinter Dothraki (a horse he would duel more than once in his career).

At just his fifth career start he was put into his first Group race, a Group 2 at Randwick where he finished down the field behind Sidestep. The grey sprinter then had a real purple patch of peformances where he either won or at least finished in the placings in his outings. As he matured, he soon earnt himself the nickname of ” The Grey Flash”. Known for settling toward the rear of the field, as the field would bunch up coming to the home turn, Chautauqua would be taken to the outside and would “flash” down the outside to score victory (or just miss). In the industry this is referred to as Turn Of Foot- in plain English it is his ability to be able to change his speed and run at a very high cruising speed that is much like a burst of stamina for marathon runners (if you think of it that way)

A career that boasts multiple Group performances and even the opportunity to show his dominance on the International stage, from the early days the young grey colt showed that he would earn the title of CHAMPION. In 2016, connections got an invitation to take their star sprinter over to Sha Tin to run in the Chairman’s Sprint, a race that he would be partnered with Tommy Berry for. A combination that flew the Aussie flag well by taking victory and proving just how talented he is. Running the last 800m of that race in just 43.91 seconds, this is when the world really took notice of the “thunder from down under” as he was begun to be referred to as.

He will forever be known as the only horse so far to have won 3 consecutive TJ Smith Stakes down the Randwick straight, a race call that is fondly etched into the hearts of many but none more so than race caller Darren Flindell. The 2015 TJ Smith Stakes run on 1st April 2017 was the last time Chautauqua tasted victory.

Then after the spectacle that was last year and the infamous scratching, the star was then ordered by the stewards to trial twice to the satisfaction of the stewards before he would be allowed to race again. In his first trial at Warwick Farm in February 2018, Chautauqua finishes his trial in 3rd place. In his next outing, all he had to do was to trial to the satisfaction of the stewards, but the mighty grey had other ideas and at the end of February 2018 Chautauqua decided to dig the heels deep and refused to leave the barriers.

Exhibiting behaviour that he would become well known for, he continued to create a buzz within the industry as everytime he was nominated for a trial the question “Will He or Won’t He” would circulate and some possibly even betting on what the grey would do. With no sign of a change in his behaviour, old jockey Tommy Berry even flew back from his contract in Hong Kong to ride the grey, this did not change anything.

With Chautauqua’s future becoming a hot topic on Social Media, many have weighed in on the debate about that he should have been retired a long time ago from racing, instead the connections have persisted with trying to get their great champion into the 2018 Everest, a hope that is fading away with each failed attempt.

In a recent trial there was a glimmer of hope when Chautauqua did decide to jump with the field and he showed that he still had his slashing turn of foot with storming down the outside to run 2nd in the trial. The embargo still not lifted as he had jumped and gone sideways and not with the field, he was then taken to the Flemington stable again and submissions were made to the stewards to allow the horse to work with a behaviourlist. In a short amount of time, Chautauqua was given another chance with a trial- to everyone’s surprise he jumped in the trial and showed that the work with the behaviourlist was looking like it was working.

Connections were then given the chance to have him trial again under race conditions tonight (28th September 2018) under race conditions again to get the embargo lifted, as all eyes focussed on him and the cheers went up at Moonee Valley, as the gates crashed back and the field left the gates- Chautauqua dug the heels in and refused to leave.

Social Media now aflood with everyone once again begging the connections to retire their champion. So now the question is not “Will he or Won’t he” but more so “Is this the end?”

If it is the end, Chautauqua has had 32 career starts for 13 wins, 7 seconds and 4 third amassing a total of over $8 million dollars in prize money.

We now sit and wait to see what the future holds and the decision that is made on the Grey Flash’s career- a decision that looks like the horse has made himself and taken away from the connections.

Thanks for the memories Chautauqua!!

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