Winx naturally caught the eye with a track gallop on day one of The Championship, yet for once the mighty mare was upstaged.
Ultimately, it was a history-making Chautauqua that captivated a crowd of more than 20,000 at Randwick on Saturday as he surged from dead last with 400m to travel to claim his third successive $2.5 million TJ Smith Stakes.
There were doubters – or, in co-trainer Wayne Hawkes words, “knockers” – who thought the world’s best sprinter might have been his prime when he finished third to Winx in the George Ryder Stakes on March 18.
That left the grey without a win in five starts since he claimed the $10 million Chairman’s Handicap (1200m) at Sha Tin almost a year ago – a statistic that became irrelevant once Tommy Berry worked Chautauqua into clear ground with just enough time to nab the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained English.
Chautauqua burst into the frame at the 50m mark and scored by a short neck, leaving all but the Hawkes brothers, Wayne and Michael, in disbelief.
“This horse defies everything. There were a lot of knockers. This horse is the king. He always has been,” said Wayne Hawkes after the six-year-old gelding banked $1.5 million to boost his earnings to $8.36 million and eclipse the legendary Black Caviar’s winnings.
“Hong Kong was special, last year here was special, this is special. For everyone who loves the horse, what a thrill.
“He was cool as a cucumber. He’s a rock star and owns the 1200 metres at Randwick.”
An unprecedented three-peat looked fanciful when Chautauqua was six lengths off the leaders with 600m remaining but Berry was happy to play a waiting game.
“I came up underneath them as I couldn’t come around them and win. Gee, once he got through he was so good.
“He’s incredible, isn’t he? I said to the doubters the whole way along: don’t worry about it, the Hawkes Team train him. They are freaks at what they do,” he said.
As he waited to embrace Berry, Wayne Hawkes paid tribute to his father, John, who had a bearing on the race strategy before Berry weaved his magic.
“(John) said to Michael: stay near the fence, stay near the fence, cut up the inside, don’t come to the outside. That was the difference between him winning and losing. Goes all right, that bloke on the couch.”
Meanwhile, despite leading until the shadow of the post, Blake Shinn was never complacent aboard English ($12 at Williamhill).
“You can never go the early crow when Chautauqua is in the race. I wasn’t going to do that today but I really felt all over a winner, all bar the post.
“Then out of nowhere the big grey came and got me.”
The Matt Dale-prepared Fell Swoop ($21) ran a game third, 1-1/4 lengths further back.