He is known as ‘The Grey Flash’ and was the world’s best sprinter.
But six-time Group 1 winner Chautauqua, who has accrued more than $8.8 million of earnings, may never race again after once again failing to jump from the barriers in a trial at Rosehill on Tuesday.
For the sixth time in seven attempts this year, the eight-year-old declined to initially jump, and although he eventually made his way out of the barriers, the champion finished more than 92 lengths behind the trial winner.
Racing NSW chief steward Marc Van Gestel said the much-loved horse, who is not permitted to trial or race again without permission, was battling a “mental issue”.
“We don’t have specific concerns about the welfare of the horse,” Van Gestel told The New Daily.
“The stable have provided a number of thorough veterinary reports on the horse and we’re satisfied that there’s no veterinary issue in respect to the horse.
“It appears to the stewards and that is the view of the stable, that it is a mental issue for the horse and they need to get the horse in the right mindset in order for it to jump.
“The stable have indicated that there’s no firm decision made in respect to the future of the horse – that is talking to co-trainer John Hawkes.”
Van Gestel said stewards would consider whether Chautauqua’s nomination for any trial or race should be “refused or rejected indefinitely” if he was to be nominated again.
He also acknowledged he could see why Chautauqua’s refusal to jump was a bad look.
“We understand the perception … obviously he’s a high-profile horse, but at the same time we obviously would need to be respectful of the connections’ right to race a horse such as him,” he said.
Chautauqua fails to jump with them again this morning… pic.twitter.com/GwdT0XbbmK
— Punters.com.au (@Punters) August 6, 2018
“The perception issues, the welfare issues – all those matters will be weighed up by the stewards.
“If they [owners and stable] make that decision [to nominate him again], we will be interested in anything they provide to us as to why they say they should be permitted to nominate the horse again for a trial or a race meeting.”
Co-trainer Michael Hawkes told Sky Racing that the latest development was “not really good for Australian racing”.
Rupert Legh, one of the horse’s owners, said on Sky that “if you saw the horse in work, and saw his condition, you don’t see a more happier or healthier horse in your lifetime … we’re all scratching our heads”.
When quizzed if the owners would continue to try and get Chautauqua to the races, Legh said: “Most certainly”.
Tommy Berry, who took the ride on Chautauqua for the trial, said: “He lunged forward and I thought he was ready to go but when the gates opened, he just stood there.”
Welfare experts from the Australian Horse Industry Council did not return requests for comment.
‘You can’t really explain why he is doing this’
Retired jockey Dylan Dunn, who is now a presenter for Racing.com’s TV channel, said he could understand why the owners wanted to persist with Chautauqua.
“He is fit and healthy. He looks better than he ever has,” Dunn told The New Daily.
“He did jump out at Flemington [in February] and he was fine. Everyone is so confused about it.
“[I understand] that if they continue to keep pushing this horse and he doesn’t jump out of the barriers, then it is just going to put a dark light on the fact that we are pushing these horses too hard when they don’t actually want to race.
“Speaking to [co-trainer] Wayne Hawkes … they are not trying to push him too hard.
“He said to me personally that the horse has done enough for him, his family and the owners, and the only reason that they continue to pursue with him is that they don’t want a champion like Chautauqua to have this barrier thing against his name and go out that way.”
Dunn’s father, Dwayne, rode Chautauqua to six victories, and he is “as stumped” as everyone, according to his son.
Dwayne was unsuccessful in getting Chautauqua to jump at a trial in Cranbourne in March.
“He knew as soon that he was going to the barriers, that he [Chautauqua] wasn’t himself … he was a bit cheeky … [but] he said he felt as good as ever. He can’t explain it,” Dunn added.