One of Australian racing’s most loved sprinters, the iconic grey Chautauqua seemed to retire far too soon from the track for many.
Loved by racing fans for his unique racing style, breathtaking wins and that glorious dappled coat, happily he is now on his way to finding his feet in a new profession in the show arena.
Inspired by the promise of a spectacular revival of fortunes for one of Australia’s finest sprinters, a big crowd of racegoers converged under the Friday night lights of Moonee Valley in September 2018 to bear witness to a do-or-die effort by ‘the Grey Flash’, Chautauqua.
If he was successful in the official trial he could be cleared to race in Victoria – however, if he again failed to jump it would not only end his spring campaign but cast deep shadows over his racing future.
But there would be no fairytale that night for Chautauqua, who stood immovable as a collective gasp echoed across the nation.
It would take another year, a leap of faith and a change of heart before Chautauqua had a chance of a different kind.
For months the champion gelding, who had dazzled world racing with six breathtaking Group 1 wins, had confounded the training partnership of John, Wayne and Michael Hawkes by flatly refusing to jump from the barriers.
At the time, racing enthusiasts (from whisperers to psychologists) were campaigning for the reintroduction of strand starts so that Chautauqua could once again produce his breathtaking ‘last-to-first’ victories against the very best.
Back in Melbourne, former jockey and accomplished show rider Casey Bruce was driving Chautauqua’s principal owner Rupert Legh “mad” with requests to look after the 10-year-old in retirement from racing. But Bruce’s instincts told her the sprinter had much more to offer.
"I rang Rupert Legh time and again with questions ranging from ‘how is the old boy?’ to ‘have you decided where he is going?’.”
Her persistence paid off and in August 2019 Chautauqua – or Sharky as he is affectionately nicknamed – arrived at a property at Lara outside of Geelong: a place Bruce had designated as the horse’s new home and place of rebirth.