Talented sprinter Chautauqua is set to head to the 2015 Newmarket Handicap after he returned to racing with a narrow win in the Group 2 Rubiton Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield this afternoon.
Chautauqua jumped from the gates fairly and he was settled in fifth position in the early stages of the race before he was shuffled back towards the tail of the field by Atmospherical at the 800 metre mark.
The Encosta De Lago looked as though he could be blocked for a run coming into the straight, but Dwayne Dunn managed to pilot the four-year-old into clear running and he picked up a gallant Flamberge in the final 50 metres to take out the Rubiton Stakes.
Co-trainer Wayne Hawkes admitted that he was not thrilled with the position that Chautauqua was in at the 400 metre mark, but he was quick to pay credit to the ride of Dunn and was simply pleased that the star sprinter had got the job done in the Rubiton Stakes.
“You have to give credit to the horse obviously, but Dwayne gave him about a 15 out of 10 ride,” Hawkes said.
“I really, really thought that was how the race was going to end up, I always thought he was going to end up in a bugger of a spot and that is where he was.
“Dwayne didn’t panic, he just sat, he just waited, got him balanced and he never got him off stride.
“He has only just won and if you get him off stride and you get him off balance then he doesn’t win.
“Full credit to Dwayne for not panicking and I’m sure 99 percent of punters that backed him were panicking.”
The Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on March 14 has always been on the agenda for Chautauqua and Hawkes refused to confirm that the Darley Classic winner would press on to the race, but he said that the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield on February 28 was not an option for the four-year-old.
“I am not sure yet, but maybe straight to the Newmarket,” Hawkes said.
“We never make a decision raceday and he can only win and that is what he did.
“The best part was that he didn’t have a gut-buster and that is important for these horses first-up because they have a long way to go.
“There is not many guarantees, but he will not be in the Oakleigh Plate.”
Team Hawkes are hoping that Chautauqua can replicate the effort of Lankan Rupee, who went on to win the Newmarket Handicap and Group 1 T.J. Smith Stakes (1200m) after he took out the Rubiton Stakes during the 2014 Melbourne Festival Of Racing.