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A trip to Japan this spring has been ruled out for superstar sprinter Chautauqua who will race exclusively in Australia until a Hong Kong Sprint bid in December.
The Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes-trained five-time Group 1 winner was earmarked for a shot at the Group 1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) at Nakayama on Sunday October 2.
The Japan Racing Association (JRA) reached out to connections of the champion Encosta De Lago gelding offering lucrative incentives to have Chautauqua travel over for the race, which is the eighth leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, giving the galloper a shot at an AU$1.3 million bonus.
Part-owner Rupert Legh told Racing Ahead on RSN on Friday morning however that the team would bypass the generous offer and instead keep the rising six-year-old at home before targeting the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin on International Race Day in December.
“It was a touch-and-go decision, but it’s just the difficulty of the quarantine they’ve got here in Australia,” he said.
“Japan were terrific, they understood that we wanted to go direct and not via Hong Kong to Japan to race and we wanted to take a companion, which is important for any horses travelling.
“But coming back again, I think it’s a four-week quarantine period, so if he came back from Japan to Australia to race in, ultimately, the Darley [Classic] – where there is a $600,000 incentive for Chautauqua to win – he would have been in quarantine for four weeks.
“The race in Japan is the 2nd of October, so just too tight.”
Chautauqua who has already amassed over $6.5 million in career earnings to date is no stranger to Sha Tin having made his international debut on May 1 this year winning the Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint (1200m).
That was his fifth elite level success and second on the trot with Tommy Berry aboard following the $2.5 million Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick during Sydney’s ‘The Championships’.
Chautauqua scored the upset over the favourite English (3rd) in the TJ Smith this year overcoming barrier 11 of 15 for the commanding victory, successfully defending his title after also winning the 2014 edition of the lucrative feature.
Legh confirmed the long-term plan post Hong Kong this summer was to have Chautauqua fit and well enough to attempt an historical and record-breaking third TJ Smith Stakes win during the 2017 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival.
“When you weigh it all up, it’s not just about the spring, it’s about the autumn so we don’t want to muck up his autumn because John is desperately keen to have the horse attempt to win a third TJ, which has never been done before,” Legh said.
“We would have spoken for a good hour yesterday on the positives and negatives of the whole thing, but ultimately it came down to what was in the best interests of the horse, not the owners.
“Yes it would have been great to have won the three races and won the world championship sprint series, but that’s great for the owners – it’s a bit of an ego trip for the owners, let’s be honest – but at the end of the day it’s really what is best for the Chautauqua.
“We want to see the horse be given every opportunity to continue down the path he’s going and that is to run in Hong Kong in December and ultimately go to Ascot [in England].”
His Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival bid meanwhile is likely to kick off with the $500,000 Group 1 Moir Stakes (1000m) at Moonee Valley Racecourse on September 30, a race co-trainer John Hawkes won in 1993 with Sports Works.
A return to the Valley on October 21 on Cox Plate Eve will follow for the $1 million Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m), a race Chautauqua won last sprint by a runaway two lengths.
Hawkes also won the 1994 Manikato with Spanish Mix, while the last back-to-back winner of the weight-for-age sprint was Spark Of Life (2004-05).
Chautauqua’s final run down under before the Hong Kong bid will be on Emirates Stakes Day, November 5, in the $1 million Group 1 Darley Classic (1200m) at Flemington Racecourse.
Runner-up to Terravista in the 2014 edition of the Melbourne Cup Carnival feature, Chautauqua was also second past the post in last year’s Darley Classic behind Delectation as the beaten $1.75 favourite.
“The horse is happy,” Legh added.
“He’s had a great spell, he’s up in Sydney where it’s a little bit warmer.
“At this stage, fingers crossed all the boxes have been ticked and we just hope we have that uninterrupted campaign and get to the Moir and let the Australian public see what Chautauqua can really do.”
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