PEAK EVER­EST

Can the Grey Flash claim the $10m race?

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - BREN­DAN CORMICK

Might And Power never left you in doubt. The 1997 Mel­bourne Cup cham­pion and 1998 Cox Plate win­ner would lead from the start and never let his ri­vals get ahead of him.

Mighty mare Winx prefers to cruise through the early stages of a race be­fore hit­ting the ac­cel­er­a­tor and leav­ing dev­as­tated op­po­nents in her wake.

Then there’s Chau­tauqua. Pun­ters could head for the col­lect counter be­fore Might And Power was even fin­ished. With Winx, well, you might as well just join the queue be­fore the race has started.

But don’t dare make an early call on the Grey Flash. This is the horse that looks beaten ev­ery time. Strug­gling as they en­ter the turn. Out of it as they hit the straight. But never have we seen a more dev­as­tat­ing fin­ish than Chau­tauqua’s.

A packed Royal Rand­wick will be scream­ing his name as the field spies the win­ning post in to­day’s in­au­gu­ral run­ning of the $10 mil- lion The Ever­est. He’ll look lost at the rear of the field but ev­ery ri­val jockey will be look­ing ner­vously over their shoul­der as Bren­ton Av­dulla winds up the great grey. It wasn’t al­ways the way. April 6, 2014. The venue is Gos­ford and it had been pour­ing rain. Heavy 10 is the high­est read­ing, but this was surely a 12.

Still, 11 horses face the starter in­clud­ing a grey geld­ing whose form has been quite good when lead­ing in his races on firm tracks. He had made all the run­ning in front post­ing his maiden vic­tory at Gee­long.

Chau­tauqua went off at odds that Black Caviar and Winx would have been proud of, $1.25, and won like them too by 4.5 lengths.

Imag­ine the hor­ror in the Gos­ford Guineas when the gates opened and he had one horse with him … at the rear. This would end badly, or would it?

Well he did get beaten, but Chau­tauqua came from sec­ond last on the home turn to run sec­ond, beaten by a half-length.

Was this the key to this promis­ing sprinter-miler?

Septem­ber 13, 2014. Re­turn­ing from a spell at Flem­ing­ton in a field of 18 up the straight in the Bob­bie Lewis Qual­ity. Chau­tauqua was loi­ter­ing with three oth­ers at the tail of the field.

In­side the 400m mark, the win- ning post be­com­ing clearer in the dis­tance, the grey flash slices through and grabs the front in a heart­beat. He wins by 2.5 lengths.

Just to show it was no fluke, Chau­tauqua is last at the 800m in the Gil­gai Stakes, again down the Flem­ing­ton straight. To the in­side, a clear run beck­ons and home he goes to win by four-lengths.

“He loves a dog­fight. When it’s a dog­fight he usu­ally comes out on top,” co-trainer Wayne Hawkes said. And we all know it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

April 6, 2015. This time it is Rand­wick and the TJ Smith Stakes, a Group I race. The track is soft and Chau­tauqua hasn’t struck a wet track for 12 months.

Last at the turn, the task ap­pears for­lorn. But this is the Grey Flash. Boom! He grabs Lord Of The Sky in the last bound.

Can you be­lieve he wins the TJ

‘You do not tear your (bet­ting) tick­ets up at the 200m mark’

Smith three years in a row — each time com­ing from last on the home turn. The only thing fans love more than a tear­away leader that has the heart to hang on is the back­marker that de­fies logic and physics to snatch vic­tory from the jaws of de­feat.

Man­ag­ing owner Ru­pert Legh has raced a lot of horses, won some of the big­gest races in the land. Noth­ing excites him like Chau­tauqua.

“He’s a big oc­ca­sion horse. He re­sponds to the pres­sure,” Legh said. “You do not tear your (bet­ting) tick­ets up at the 200m mark.”

Chau­tauqua has been beaten out of the top five plac­ings at his two starts back from a spell and there are those who want to sug­gest Fa­ther Time has caught up with him. Legh isn’t hav­ing a bar of it. He thinks he will win to­day and leap to more than $14 mil­lion in prize­money.

RU­PERT LEGH MAN­AG­ING OWNER

In punt­ing cir­cles he is well known. A diminu­tive fig­ure reek­ing of in­cense and chant­ing for its calm­ing in­flu­ence while do­ing the form. The gam­bler known as the Guru is feared by book­ies and the TAB when he spurts in­can­ta­tions af­ter plac­ing a wa­ger.

Leg­end has it he was born at the foot of the world’s most fa­mous peak and has breathed the air at the top of the moun­tain. The Western world came to know it as Mount Ever­est in 1865, named af­ter In­dia’s Sur­veyor Gen­eral, Sir Ge­orge Ever­est, a fa­mous track walker who passed the skill set onto an­ces­tors of the Guru.

“I vis­ited a white house and met Hil­lary,” he said in an un­guarded mo­ment, though the au­thor could not be sure with more prod­ding whether he was re­fer­ring to Sir Ed­mund or Rod­ham Clin­ton.

To the Nepalese, Mount Ever­est is known as Sa­gar­matha. The Ti­betans call it Qo­molangma. The Guru breaks from his state of seren­ity and chirps that, in keep­ing with long names that are hard to pro­nounce, Aus­tralians will call Ever­est Chau­tauqua if the grey flash comes from nowhere and en­gulfs his op­po­si­tion like an avalanche this af­ter­noon.

Sa­gar­man­tha means fore­head in the sky while the def­i­ni­tion of Qo­molangma is God­dess Mother of the World. The Guru sees this as an omen for She Will Reign, pre­pared by he of the re­ced­ing hair­line, trainer Gary Portelli.

The Guru is proud to see Peter V’landys run with the $10 mil­lion race. He can­not be­lieve the en­ergy and pas­sion shown by the Rac­ing NSW chief ex­ec­u­tive. “Does he ever rest?” he asked.

When at home work­ing out his bets, the Guru proudly wears a Syd­ney Swans jumper, which he claims was “hand­balled” to him by the Dalai Lama, one of dozens pre­sented to the spir­i­tual leader of the Ti­betan peo­ple.

At­tend­ing a re­cent Rand­wick meet­ing, the punter with lofty ex­pec­ta­tions walked on-course trail­ing his Sherpa, who was car­ry­ing a tra­di­tional Ti­betan in­cense burner. At one point, the Sherpa pointed in the di­rec­tion of the rails book­mak­ers. On his stand was Rob­bie Water­house. The Guru leant across and out the side of his mouth said, “Him a layer”.

Just as Ti­bet is known for its Hid­den King­dom, so is Rand­wick. Be­hind the grand­stand is King­dom of the Horse,where the Guru does his best work, seek­ing en­light­en­ment through med­i­ta­tion while view­ing the horses as they pa­rade.

Wis­dom em­anates from a light from the heart of Bud­dha be­ing vi­su­alised. When the Sherpa sees the light, he gets a small statue of Bud­dha from his and the Guru rubs it for luck be­fore pin­ning his ears back and bet­ting.

To quote some lar­rikins from a ra­dio show in the 1980s, the Guru stip­u­lated he wasn’t en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to gam­ble, rather he’s en­cour­ag­ing them T’bet.

Gam­ble re­spon­si­bly.

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