The middle distance experiment with Chautauqua didn’t work but Tommy Berry is in no doubt the horse can reclaim his title as Australia’s sprint king.
Chautauqua will chase a record third win in the Group One TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on Saturday when he reverts to his traditional distance range after being extended to 1500m last start in the George Ryder Stakes won by Winx.
Chautauqua wasn’t disgraced, finishing third, but his performance prompted trainers John, Wayne and Michael Hawkes to abandon thoughts of a Doncaster Mile start and return the horse to the sprint arena which has been his forte.
Berry is adamant it’s the right decision and says if Chautauqua can replicate his Canterbury Stakes performance two starts ago he is the horse to beat on Saturday.
“His Sydney form is sensational and his Randwick form is almost 100 per cent,” Berry said.
“I wouldn’t say he’s going any better than the last two years but I don’t think he’s far off what he was then.
“His run two starts ago was outstanding and the way the George Ryder was run, they went way too slow for him and he was just a bit outsprinted at the top of the straight.”
Chautauqua has been the benchmark sprinter in Australia over the past couple of seasons and confirmed his world’s best ranking with his win in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize in Hong Kong last May.
But his aura of invincibility has diminished after a winless spring and three minor placings this preparation.
He hasn’t lost popularity with punters and has been installed favourite for Saturday’s race in which Berry regards three-year-old Russian Revolution and Group One Lightning Stakes runner-up Spieth as his main dangers.
Russian Revolution defeated the older horses last start in the Galaxy while Spieth will bid to bounce back from an unplaced run in the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington.
“I don’t think the field is as strong as it has been the last two years,” Berry said.
“He’s going to get back and track wide and it will probably be suiting horses coming down the outside by that time of the day.
“I believe he can win.”
Russian Revolution is one of a trio of three-year-olds in the TJ Smith along with Astern and Derryn.