By Ray Hickson
Chautauqua can still gallop – that’s the point jockey Tommy Berry wanted to prove in the seconds after the popular grey stubbornly refused to leave the starting stalls again at Rosehill on Tuesday.
It’s the sixth time in an official trial in 2018 the “Grey Flash’’ hasn’t played ball and he’s skating very close to the edge of being barred from racing.
So, when Chautauqua could finally be coaxed from the gates Berry set him alight and he officially finished the 900m trial – some 92.6 lengths behind the winner.
“I thought I’d just let him work around because the public hasn’t seen him gallop for a very long time,’’ Berry said.
“They’ve only seen him not jump out of the barriers.
“Obviously there’s concern from people that he’s not well so I thought I’d give them a little show and see how well he is and he gives you goosebumps when he works.”
Chautauqua's dramatic 'trial' at Rosehill on Tuesday
Berry said he felt Chautauqua move forward as the gates opened then stepped back and his heart sank.
It was a strange sight to see the horse crowned the world’s best sprinter a couple of years ago streaking around the track a long way off a pack of horses he’d normally be rounding up.
“It’s disappointing, it’s heartbreaking. It is what it is,’’ Berry said.
“He actually went to jump, he put all his weight forward and took a step then sucked back underneath me. Once I relaxed on him he was happy to go out.
“He was here to have a hit-out anyway. He’s in good shape, he just has it in his mind he doesn’t want to jump.’’
Racing NSW chief steward Marc Van Gestel said no decisions are being made from the stewards perspective about Chautauqua’s future this week.
He’s spoken to Hall Of Fame trainer John Hawkes and won’t take any action until he sends word from the stable on their intentions with the gelding, now an eight-year-old.
Chautauqua’s part-owner Rupert Legh is overseas at present and he’s indicated on radio today the horse will be given every chance to return to the track. Another owner Greg Ingham holds an Everest slot - but tackling the Everest again seems just about gone.
If another shot at racing is in the intention the Hawkes stable will then have to meet with stewards.
Co-trainer Michael Hawkes echoed the sentiment of most in racing circles after the trial when he said racing is richer for having horses like Chautauqua on the track.
And he stressed everything is being done to give him a fitting end to a marvellous career, not one that goes down in infamy.
“It’s frustrating. We’ve worked on him as much as we can and we’ve done a lot with him to get him in the right frame of mind,’’ Hawkes said.
— Racing NSW (@racing_nsw) August 6, 2018
“He did finish the trial but he didn’t come out when we asked him to.
“We’ll have to talk to the owners, (racing) need this horse and we need him to get back but his future is still to be determined.’’
Meanwhile, Hawkes was glowing about Golden Slipper winner Estijaab’s first public appearance since winning the world’s richest two-year-old race back in March.
Estijaab was beaten 1.9 lengths by Performer in an 900m trial and Hawkes said it was the perfect starting point for a filly he’s quite excited about.
“She went really well, just out to stretch her legs,’’ he said.
“She had a nice easy trial and we’re very happy with how she hit the line. This was more about getting her fitness levels up and see she’s come back in great form.’’
A first-up run for Estijaab is yet to be confirmed and the same can be said about her ultimate goal this spring.
Hawkes said the filly has grown up in her spell and isn’t sure whether she’ll be asked to stretch to the mile of races like the Group 1 Flight Stakes (1600m).
“She was always going to change, she was more a three-year-old in our eyes and they have to come back and make that transition,’’ he said.