R & C Legh Racing and GPI Racing's 6-year-old gelding Chautauqua (AUS) reasserted himself as one of the world's top turf sprinters with a dramatic last-to first victory over 14 rivals in the $2.5 million Darley TJ Smith Stakes (G1) at Royal Randwick on Saturday. It was his third consecutive TJ Smith Stakes win and the victory earned Chautauqua an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1) through the Breeders' Cup Challenge series. One race later on the Randwick program, Godolphin's It's Somewhat captured the $3 million Doncaster Mile (G1) and gained an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Mile. (G1)
The Breeders' Cup Challenge is an international series of stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into the Breeders' Cup World Championships, which this year will be held for the first time at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club near San Diego, California, on November 3-4.
As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders' Cup will pay the entry fees for the connections of both Chautauqua and It's Somewhat to start in the Turf Sprint and the Mile, respectively. Breeders' Cup will also provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders' Cup program by the Championships' pre-entry deadline of Oct. 23 to receive the rewards.
Chautauqua, the 9-2 second choice in the TJ Smith, trained by Michael Hawkes and ridden by Tommy Berry, dropped back to last at the start of the six-furlong race, while pacesetters Fell Swoop (AUS) and English (AUS) led the field. As the leaders turned for home, English went to the front, but Chautauqua, still last, made a furious drive in the last 100 yards and hit the wire first, defeating English by a half-length, with Fell Swoop 1 ½ lengths behind the winner. The 12-5 favored Russian Roulette (AUS) finished sixth.
The TJ Smith was Chautauqua's 12th career win in 23 starts, but he was winless in his last five outings since capturing the Chairman's Sprint Prize (G1) at Sha Tin in Hong Kong last May.
“There were a lot of knockers out there, [but] this horse is the king,” said co-trainer Michael Hawkes to the Sydney Morning Herald. 'He's always has been. And has never gone from us.”
Chautauqua, a gray son of Encosta De Lago (AUS), covered the six furlongs in 1:12.35 over a soft course.
In the Doncaster Mile, It's Somewhat and jockey Zac Purton broke on top at 30-1 and never looked back, taking a course along the rail and holding off Happy Clapper by a half-length in a 20-horse field. The 6-year-old bay gelding by Dynaformer, trained by John O'Shea, won his second race this year in as many starts. It's Somewhat came into the Doncaster off a win in the Hyland Colours Ajax Stakes (G2) at Rosehill on March 11. Bred in the US by Walden and Madden, et al, It's Somewhat completed the one mile in 1:39.17 over a soft course. Sense of Occasion (AUS) finished third. Pre-race favorite Le Romain (AUS) finished 15th.
“We were quietly confident that he'd run first four all week, but when the track played the way that it did, we knew he'd be tough and he was. It was a great ride from Zac Purton and I've owed him a good one for a while!” said O'Shea to Horse Racing Australia. “We just rode the track and the way it's playing. We knew that he was a tough, fit horse and he'd done very well from his first-up run, and he just hoped.”
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