Co-trainer Wayne Hawkes insists Chautauqua is the best horse in the Newmarket Handicap and that only bad luck can beat him.
Chasing a first Newmarket Handicap success, Hawkes, who trains in partnership with his father John and brother Michael, enters Saturday’s sprint at Flemington more confident than when the gelding won last month’s Lightning Stakes (1000m).
Chautauqua, the $2.45 favourite, is looking to break through for his first Group One win over the straight 1200m course.
He ran second to Brazen Beau in last year’s Newmarket when, according to Hawkes, Joao Moreira “pulled down the pants” of jockeys aboard the opposition.
“We don’t need any good luck because we’ve got the right horse. We just don’t need any bad luck,” Hawkes said.
“The Lightning was only a last-minute decision as he was a couple of weeks ahead of schedule.”
The Flemington track received 7.4mm of rain on Thursday and was rated a good 4 on Friday morning.
Hawkes said he would not be concerned if more rain fell, adding the outside draw in the 11-horse field would give jockey Dwayne Dunn options.
“I think this would be the first time he’s drawn the outside barrier,” Hawkes said.
“If it happened to rain a bit more it wouldn’t worry me because he’s won a TJ (Smith) on a bog.
“He’s a wet-tracker and a dry-tracker and that’s a big plus we’ve got with him.”
Hawkes has healthy respect for the Chris Waller-trained sprinters which include the well-supported $4 second favourite Japonisme and the third and fourth elects Counterattack and Delectation.
“Chris Waller is a Group One trainer and he gets his horses right on the day,” Hawkes said.
“But you don’t have just one opposition in a race like this, there’s 10 others to worry about.
“We’re under no illusion. We’ve had the best horse in the race before and got beaten.”
Chautauqua heads to Sydney for his main autumn aim, the TJ Smith at Randwick after Saturday after which a decision will be made on a trip to Hong Kong.
Royal Ascot in June is also an option.
“England is so far away, but it is there,” Hawkes said.
“We’ve spoken to them and have started to put things in place.”
Article from JustHorseRacing.com.au