Can the Grey Flash claim the $10m race?
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.