Chautauqua may not find it easy to scale new heights in Everest
Chautauqua blazed up the Randwick straight to take the TJ Smith Stakes on Saturday and bookmakers make him clear favourite for the richest turf race on the planet, the Everest, later this year.
As is often the case with Chautauqua, he was sloth-like from the gates and bumbled along at the tail of the field before turning on the turbo a furlong from home to score by a head.
It was a characteristically showy display from the lightning-fast six-year-old and it resulted in his third consecutive win in the TJ Smith Stakes, which is the feature sprint at The Championships in Sydney.
The winner clearly goes well at Randwick but he’s far from a one-track pony. He also landed Group 1 races at Moonee Valley and Flemington last season, and even the Chairman’s Sprint Prize in Hong Kong when he again stormed down the outside for a narrow success.
Having sat at the top of the Australian sprinting division since 2014, Chautauqua would be an apt and deserving winner of the inaugural running of the A$10m Everest, particularly as it’s run over the same course and distance as the TJ Smith, which he has made his own in recent years.
If he was to win the Everest in October his career earnings would leap from just over A$8m (£4.9m) to A$14m (£8.5m) in the space of 70 seconds, which would make him the highest-earning sprinter of all time and among the ten highest-earning racehorses of all time.
An Everest win would obviously delight Chautauqua’s connections as they would receive the hefty purse and find their boy propelled to another level in the sport’s rich history, but there would be a reciprocity about his win as he would be doing the Everest organisers a huge favour.
As it is an entirely new race, which was nothing more than a concept just 12 months ago, the Australian Turf Club and Racing New South Wales will be desperate for the first running of the Everest to be packed with high-class talent and – most importantly – produce a winner worthy of being crowned a world sprint champion.
Chautauqua would put a big tick in that box and, given his exhilarating style and his lengthy stay at sprinting’s top table, he would also prove a popular winner.
If it all comes together the reciprocal relationship between horse and race would be akin to what we saw in the Pegasus World Cup in January when world champion Arrogate got the prize he deserved and the organisers of the world’s richest race got the Big A as their inaugural winner.
However, just because Chautauqua would prove a fitting winner of the first running of the Everest doesn’t mean he’s going to win it.
The Australian sprint scene is wide-open at the moment and, while Chautauqua’s win at the weekend puts him at the top, he did score by only a head and the ratings don’t have him far ahead of a whole host of progressive youngsters who may be ready to knock him off his perch in six months' time.
This win was worth an RPR of 122. He was capable of better in the past, but this was his best performance since winning the corresponding race last year when he achieved the same RPR of 122.
The time of this win was not fast. In fact the final time and the closing splits were slower than the three-year-old fillies achieved in the Group 3 PJ Bell Stakes earlier on the card.
Sure, the way he did it was magnificent, but as we look to the Everest his ratings advantage could be just a pound (a fraction of a length).
We will know more about his potential Everest challengers as we get closer to the race. We don’t know who will line up for now, but all 12 slots in the race were sold by last week and the likely field will start to take shape in the coming months.
Another race worth a mention from last week is the Osaka Hai at Hanshin on Sunday, won by Kitasan Black.
The five-year-old showed his class to land the Japan Cup in November and matched that RPR of 122 with a three-quarters-of-a-length win over Staphanos (121).
The Osaka Hai was won by Orfevre in the past and a strong field went to post, including Prix Niel winner Makahiki and Hong Kong Vase hero Satono Crown, but the race didn’t pan out well for either of them.
It paid to be handy in the straight, with Kitasan Black always leading the main field and Staphanos also coming off a handy sit having followed the winner throughout.
Makahiki kept on well against the pace to take fourth, while Satono Crown seemed unsuited to this test of speed off the bend. Given more of a trip and a bit more cut, he should still have more big prizes in his sights.