Steely grey sprinter Chautauqua could give trainer John Hawkes his first win in the Group 1 $1m Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on Saturday.
Hawkes, along with his co-trainer sons Michael and Wayne, will saddle up Chautauqua who is the $3 favourite for the famous 1200m sprint down the Flemington straight.
“We haven’t been lucky enough to win this one, not that we’ve had a lot of runners, but certainly it would be (nice to win),” Hawkes told AAP.
“It’s certainly no cake walk, but we can only get our horse right. If it happens, it happens.
“They’ve got to turn up on the day and perform on the day.”
Even though the Newmarket Handicap has only attracted nine starters, the top of the market order is very congested with four runners at $6 or shorter.
Mick Price’s giant sprinter Lankan Rupee is second in the betting at $3.20, three year old Brazen Beau has been installed at $4.80 while Terravista is rated as a $6 chance.
Terravista, Chautauqua and Lankan Rupee finished one, two, three when they last clashed in the Group 1 $1m Darley Classic over the same course and distance as the Newmarket Handicap during the 2014 Melbourne Spring Carnival.
“There’s three of the best sprinters around at present. It’s a good race,” Hawkes said.
“What’s going to be is going to be. There can only be one winner unfortunately. We’ve just got to see what happens. They are all good sprinters in their own right.”
While Lankan Rupee clearly had the better of the Chris Waller trained Brazen Beau at weight for age when he recorded a two and three quarter lengths win over the three year old in the Group 1 $500,000 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) at Flemington on February 21.
Brazen Beau was the star three year old sprinter in the Spring after scoring an impressive win down the Flemington straight in the 1200m Group 1 $500,000 Coolmore Stud Stakes on November 1.
Five Group 1 winner Lankan Rupee has been allocated the top weight of 58.5kg for the Newmarket Handicap and Hawkes considered the five year to be treated favourably by the handicapper.
“It’s a different race. Lankan Rupee is pitchforked in,” Hawkes said.
Chautauqua, who is yet to win at Group 1 level, was given 55.5kg and kicked off his Autumn Carnival campaign with a solid come from behind win over Flamberge and Atmospherical in the Group 2 $200,000 Schweppes Rubiton Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield on February 14.
While Chautauqua and Lankan Rupee both have had one run back from a spell and will go into Saturday’s contest race fit, trainer Joe Pride has elected to tackle the Newmarket Handicap first up with Terravista who has been asked to carry 56.5kg.