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Beaten odds-on favourite in Saturday’s Darley Classic at Flemington, the Team Hawkes-trained Chautauqua could still head to Sha Tin next month for a shot at the Hong Kong Sprint 2015.
A winner of his three lead-up runs this time in including the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m), Encosta De Lago gelding Chautauqua jumped at $1.90 for the $1 million Group 1 Darley Classic (1200m) on Emirates Stakes Day over the weekend.
In an incredible boilover though, trainer of the moment Chris Waller scored the narrow upset with his Shamardal four-year-old Delectation ($14) beating home Chautauqua by the barest of margins in a photo finish on the line.
Despite the loss and the disappointment of being so close to a third Group 1 win, plans from the stable are still likely to include the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) assignment at Sha Tins’ International Race Day next month.
“It still is [the plan to travel], but to be fair, even if he had won and won by two lengths, we’d still be in the same situation we’re in right now,” co-trainer Wayne Hawkes told Racing Ahead on RSN on Monday morning, saying the odds were “70-30” in favour of going to Hong Kong.
“That is, we need to see how he pulls up to go forward because it’s even a bigger call and a whole different ball game going to Hong Kong, because you struggle to have a spell when you get back.
“If you make somewhere like the TJ Smith [Stakes] again, you’re only just getting there in the nick of time.
“It’s easy going across to Flemington and Moonee Valley and Sydney. He’s got to travel and acclimatise and get on a plane, which he’s never done.”
A winner of nine of his 18 career starts to date, five-year-old Chautauqua has finished out of the top three just twice in his career and has amassed over $3.43 million in prize money to date.
With little to prove and no stud value to add to, Hawkes said they didn’t want to take the risk of travelling if they didn’t rate Chautauqua a nearly unbeatable chance in the Hong Kong Sprint.
“To be fair, we only want to go if we think we’re a deadest good thing.
“At the moment we’re still going ahead, but we only need one small thing to pull the plug.
“There’s a stack of prizemoney here in Australia as well.”
Hawkes also admitted they were making no excuses for his Darley Classic loss and that the horse had pulled up well post-race.
“He pulled up how he normally does,” he said.
“The end result is there’s no point crying over spilt milk.
“We weren’t good enough on the day, and that’s what mattered. I’d rather be training Chautauqua than not.”
If Chautauqua does head to Hong Kong he would leave Australia on November 29 in time for the race on December 13.
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