Top Australian sprinter Chautauqua ruled out of Hong Kong Sprint
The Longines Hong Kong International Races have suffered an early blow with one of the expected marquee names, world's joint top sprinter Chautauqua, suffering a minor injury in training and he will miss the HK$18.5 million Hong Kong Sprint on December 13.
Rated 123 on the latest international rankings and the equal seventh-highest rated horse in the world, Chautauqua is the second major Australian sprinter to pull out even before the invitations are publicly released next Wednesday after Terravista's connections decided to bypass Sha Tin.
Co-trainer Michael Hawkes said on Thursday that Chautauqua's future was not in doubt but that the injury was enough to see him spelled immediately before continuing his career in early 2016.
"It's very disappointing. He's been aimed for Hong Kong for the past 12 months but the horse has tweaked a joint. He cannot be 100 per cent going there and we have to put the horse first," Hawkes said.
"Even if he was 99 per cent, I don't think it's doing the right thing by him, by the public or by the Hong Kong Jockey Club to go anything less than at the top of his game.
"So, he'll be on a float to the spelling paddock on Friday, back to hopefully defend his T J Smith win in the autumn in Sydney and again, hopefully, we can look at Hong Kong again a year from now.
"He has not had a lot of racing for his age and I think there is plenty more racing ahead of him."
Hawkes said the disappointment ran deep as Chautauqua's Hong Kong tilt had been such a specific goal with a specific horse.
"We've had other horses we could have brought over to have a runner but we wanted to go with one we thought could win and Chautauqua was the right one, we thought," said Hawkes.
His brother and co-trainer Wayne said the upside to the minor injury is that there was no doubt Chautauqua would return in the Australian autumn,
"The injury isn't much at all but when you've still got to give the horse a gallop or jump out and then you've got to get on a plane with him, it's enough," Wayne Hawkes said.
"I've said all along to the Australian media that travelling halfway around the world to race isn't easy and one little thing goes wrong it can muck you up.
"The horse owes nobody anything but we owe it to him to look after him and there are some great targets for him at home early next year."