The Dispatch Box: Chautauqua hurls Lightning bolt
Chautauqua photo courtesy of @HawkesRacing via Twitter.
Outstanding Australian sprinter Chautauqua looked beaten until the final stages of the Lightning (G1) at Flemington, when he delivered a breathtaking surge from the rear to get up over Terravista and Japonisme.
As reported by Racenet.com.au, the Team Hawkes veteran posted a final 600 meters (about 3 furlongs) in :32.05, with the last 200 meters in :11.26. This was particularly notable since Chautauqua isn’t a pure 1000-meter type, considering his previous signature scores have come in the 1200-meter TJ Smith (G1) and Manikato (G1).
Chautauqua will now return to that distance. The March 12 Newmarket H. (G1) could be next, followed by his main domestic aim – a title defense in the April 2 TJ Smith. Then it’s off for his international ambitions, which revolve around the May 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (G1) in Hong Kong and the June 18 Diamond Jubilee (G1) at Royal Ascot.
Exosphere brought back to earth, but not for long? The disappointment of the Lightning was Godolphin’s Exosphere, not so much because he performed poorly, but because of his poor tactics. On a day when it paid to race on the stands’ side, Exosphere was stranded out in no man’s land on the wrong part of the course. Criticism has poured in on jockey James McDonald, who didn’t tack over early as Dwayne Dunn did on Chautauqua. In the circumstances, Exosphere acquitted himself respectably in fourth, beaten about 1 3/4 lengths, in his first test against the older sprint brigade. Nevertheless, the school of thought remains that he’s better around a turn than a dash down the straightaway like the Lightning.
Exosphere will get another chance at Chautauqua in the TJ Smith at Randwick, where he’ll have a turn. The pair could clash again at Royal Ascot, where Exosphere would get the chance to put his straight-course question to rest. Trainer John O’Shea indicated that he’ll be engaged in both the June 14 King’s Stand (G1) at five furlongs and the Diamond Jubilee over six.
Other Antipodeans mulling Royal Ascot include New Zealand sensation Xtravagant, who’s set for the March 5 Australian Guineas (G1), and would skip Sydney’s Championships in April if he’s certain for England in June; the Chris Waller-trained Press Statement, a slashing winner of last Saturday’s Hobartville (G2) in his comeback and bound for the March 5 Randwick Guineas (G1); and Suavito, who runs in tonight’s Futurity (G1) en route to the March 12 Australian Cup (G1). A subsequent trip to Hong Kong could clarify her Royal Ascot status.
First Seal back in business: Sidelined by hoof problems for 10 months, classy distaffer First Seal turned in a smart performance off the bench in the Millie Fox (G2). The Group 1 veteran, who was beating Winx before she became Winx, is penciled in for the March 5 Canterbury S. (G1) en route to her big objective, the Doncaster (G1). Conversely, the racing future of Catkins is in doubt after her lackluster last in the Millie Fox. Unless she shows something in a Monday barrier trial at Rosehill (which also features prolific sprinter Our Boy Malachi), retirement may beckon.
Slipper chase: Godolphin’s unbeaten Astern repelled the challenge of wide-trip Defcon in the Silver Slipper (G2), enhancing his candidacy for the March 19 Golden Slipper (G1). Astern was already the object of lofty praise from connections at the time of his debut score. O’Shea has now compared him to last year’s Slipper star Vancouver, also a son of Medaglia d’Oro. He may get a stiffer test in the March 5 Todman (G2), versus antepost Slipper favorite Capitalist. Defcon, who was rerouted to the Silver Slipper after missing the males’ Blue Diamond Prelude (G3), is ticketed for the March 6 Black Opal (G3).
Weatherly is another prominent face on the Golden Slipper trail. Favored in his debut in the Blue Diamond Preview for males, he never recovered from a poor start and wound up sixth. The Paul Messara pupil made no mistake second time out in last Saturday’s Talindert at Flemington. Messara believes he has the warp speed of his late sire, Beneteau.
Just tonight, a pair of Slipper trials was held at Randwick. Gai Waterhouse’s Scarlet Rain remained perfect from three starts with a front-running verdict in the Sweet Embrace (G2). Two races earlier, Good Standing stalked and pounced in the Skyline (G2). Godolphin’s favored Telperion was given plenty to do when trying to rally from last, but he made good late progress for fourth.
Sloane Avenue second in return: Unraced since his gut-wrenching, photo-finish loss to Tamarkuz in last year’s Godolphin Mile (G2), Sloane Avenue resurfaced with a useful second in a Kempton conditions race Wednesday. The Jeremy Noseda trainee couldn’t peg back the pacesetter Captain Cat, but this was just the kind of effort he can build upon for World Cup night, presumably in the Godolphin Mile again.
Japan round-up: Once-beaten Moanin handled the class hike to Grade 1 company and captured the February (G1) in track-record time at a sloppy Tokyo. Earlier on the card, promising 3-year-old Gold Dream extended his record to 3-for-3 in the Hyacinth, where US Triple Crown nominee Lani was a one-paced fifth after a big middle move. More details on Moanin and Gold Dream, along with race replays, can be found in the linked recap.
Sun shines again in Hong Kong: Despite concerns about the added furlong of the Hong Kong Classic Cup, Hong Kong Classic Mile winner Sun Jewellery once again denied Werther in a tight finish. Unlike the Classic Mile, when Werther was pocketed at a crucial point, this time Sun Jewellery was in traffic in the stretch. But Ryan Moore, and his own maneuverable brilliance, got him out.
Surely, won’t the son of Snitzel finally find the about 10 furlongs of the Hong Kong Derby a bridge too far? The long-winded Werther then will have his day, right? Or perhaps Irish import Giovanni Canaletto, the Irish Derby (G1) third and Epsom Derby (G1) fourth who’s rounding into form through the Classic Mile and Classic Cup?
Moore offers a counterpoint:
Sun Jewellery’s a class horse and class usually tells over a distance. He’s probably just better than them, he’s just got a class edge and that allows horses to go further than you’d think they would.
If Moore is right, and Sun Jewellery triumphs on March 20, he’d become the first horse to sweep Hong Kong’s series for 4-year-olds.
Latest Dubai plans from Hong Kong: Dirt specialist Gun Pit has shipped out ahead of his Meydan debut in the March 5 Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1).
The South China Morning Post reports that he’ll get a rider switch to Joao Moreira. His regular pilot, Zac Purton, had a scheduling conflict: he also rides sprint kingpin Aerovelocity, who’s headed for a title defense in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (G1) on March 27. Purton couldn’t make that engagement in Japan as well as Dubai World Cup night, so he gave up Dubai in favor of Aerovelocity.
“It was important to have the same jockey on him for both races because I need a guide on how the horse handles the surface and which race we go to second-up,” trainer Caspar Fownes told the SCMP’s Michael Cox.
Fownes is referring to his choice of World Cup night targets, either the $10 million grand prize or the Godolphin Mile.
The trainer also hopes that Domineer can join Hong Kong’s contingent, led by Rich Tapestry and Super Jockey, in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1). Fifth to fellow Golden Shaheen possible Master Kochanwong two back, he defied 133 pounds when lifting a handicap on Happy Valley’s turf Wednesday.
“He’s done his job and now we’ll see if we get an invite for the Dubai Golden Shaheen and if we do I’ll take him,” Fownes said. “He was entered so we’ll see what happens.”
Among the turf sprinters, Cruz told the SCMP that Peniaphobia will pursue the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on World Cup night after all. Last year’s near-miss second to Sole Power was supposed to stay home, so it’s great news that he’s now cleared for take-off to Dubai. Speaking of Sole Power, the ageless globetrotter just left his native Ireland for yet another Dubai excursion.
Retirement reports: Past Hong Kong champion sprinter Lucky Nine has been retired at the age of nine. Fownes paid tribute to his exceptional heart and toughness, as did regular rider Brett Prebble, in another SCMP article by Cox. Godolphin announced the retirement of Australian Group 1 winners Contributer and Complacent, with stud plans pending for each. Finally, Ribbons, who was reported as sold to continue her career in the US, has instead been retired and bred.