Co-trainer Wayne Hawkes is happy with the condition of Chautauqua heading into the 2015 Newmarket Handicap, but he admits that the talented sprinter will face stiff competition in the Group 1 event at Flemington on Saturday.
Chautauqua stamped himself as one of the best sprinters in Australia when he won the Group 3 Bobbie Lewis Quality (1200m) and Group 2 Gilgai Stakes (1200m) in dominant fashion during the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival, but he is still chasing a first win at Group 1 level after he finished second behind Terravista in the Group 1 Darley Classic (1200m) at Flemington on November 8 last year.
The Encosta De Lago gelding returned to racing with a win in the Group 2 Rubiton Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield on February 14, but Hawkes told RSN that the four-year-old will face a much tougher task in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m).
“He is really good,” Hawkes said.
“It is the right race for him.
“He has had a month between runs and we are very happy with the big boy.
“He is nice and bright.
“You have three top class horses and I think that we would all be surprised if one of those three didn’t win on Saturday.
“He is a super horse Terravista, he has done the job and Lankan Rupee’s Newmarket Handicap win last year was good enough to win this year and we know what our bloke has done.
“It is a ripping race and I just hope that I am in front at the winning post.”
Chautauqua will be heading into the Newmarket Handicap without a race start for a month, but Hawkes said that the stable had spaced the runs of the gelding in order to keep him fresh for the Group 1 sprint.
Hawkes revealed that he does not believe that Chautauqua is a genuine sprinter and feels that the horse will be at his best over 1400 metres, but is hopeful that the break between runs will help him keep the speed in his legs for the Newmarket Handicap.
“He has done a bit because it was a month between runs and we knew that purposely.
“Everyone said that we were keeping Deep Field away from him in the Lightning, but Deep Field could have run in the Lightning and Chautauqua could have run in the Lightning.
“He is not a deadset sprinter this horse Chautauqua, he is a genuine 1400 metre horse and that is what he really, really is.
“A race like an All Aged Stakes is the right race for him and we could even push him out to a Doncaster.
“I’m not saying that we would, but we certainly could.
“We previously ran him in the 1100 and not the 1000 and he will just keep a little bit fresh for the 1200 up the straight.”
Chautauqua is currently available at 2015 Newmarket Handicap odds of $3 and is a narrow favourite from Lankan Rupee ($3.20), Brazen Beau ($5) and Terravista ($5.50).