Australian-bred Chautauqua wins the 2016 Chairman’s Sprint Prize at Sha Tin. (HKJC Photo)
By Michaela Moricova
Because I am a huge fan of British and Irish jump races, I know a horse unwilling to take part in a race appears from time to time. Still, I couldn’t believe my eyes when one of the best jumpers, Shishkin, refused to race at Ascot in November. Unlike the punters, I was only surprised, not furious, so the whole situation landed me a curious thought – what are the most notorious “refuse-to-race” horses in history?
Of course, there have been several regarding jump races in the UK and Ireland, but at first, I will focus on the rebels on the flat as at least two most horse racing fans remember. Those were Chautauqua and Sariska, whose careers I’ll look at in the following paragraphs. If you’re asking why to remind of them if everybody knows their history, the answer is simple – because at least these two were much more than wayward horses.
They were champions when at their best behaviors, and therefore, I feel it would be a shame to remember them only due to their shenanigans. It wouldn’t be fair.
The grey colt was born in 2010 in Australia, and quickly after hitting the track in 2014, Chautauqua showcased his talent. The son of Encosta De Lago achieved three Group victories and concluded the year with a second place in the G1 Darley Classic over six furlongs. In the following season, Chautauqua recorded his premiere G1 triumph as he employed a deathly finish from the rear of the field to strike gold in the Darley T J Smith Stakes. Since then, his star had been rising.
Trained by Michael, Wayne, and John Hawkes, the grey gelding then added another G1 victory in 2015 and belonged among the fan favorites also in 2016 as Chautauqua won the G1 Black Caviar Lightning, again took the Darley T J Smith Stakes thanks to an explosive turn of foot, and rendered his trip to Hong Kong successful. Back then, Chautauqua scored the Champion’s Sprint Prize in May, and even though his other two performances of the year were disappointing, he still was voted the Australian Champion Sprinter 2016.
In 2017, Chautauqua recorded his sixth G1 win when conquering a hat trick in the Darley T J Smith Stakes, again from an unlikely position. He was dead last at the final turn and he still managed to get things done. After another remarkable performance he earned some money, but most notably, he showed his disdain towards racing.
The team taking care of Chautauqua had never offered any explanation why the horse remained at the gates when the race was on. Well, besides the obvious one – he just didn’t want to race anymore.
Horses in Australia prepare for the races in trials that are unofficial, relatively short races, and Chautauqua kept failing to start in these. On one occasion, he finished second, which seemed hopeful; however, his unwillingness to participate continued until the end of his career. In 2018, he was given the last chance to reverse a decision to retire him, but Chautauqua refused to race once again, and thus, his racing career was over.
Despite the shenanigans at its end, his resume is impressive; moreover, he left a legacy behind. It would be a shame to remember only the races he refused to take part in, as Chautauqua was an excellent sprinter whose finish from last to first will always stay, at least, in my mind.
Sariska, the Mare who Almost Killed her Trainer
Sariska’s career was much shorter than that of her Australian fellow refuser and was over just a few days before Chautauqua was born. Sariska is a daughter of Pivotal and spent her career at Michael Bell’s in the UK. Born in 2006, she recorded just a maiden victory as a two-year-old in 2008; however, she rose to stardom as a three-year-old. The bay filly relished middle and longer distances, so after bagging a trial, Sariska scored the Epsom Oaks by a head to Midday, upon which she the Irish Oaks, seemingly in a canter. In the Yorkshire Oaks, Sariska proved a worthy opponent to older rivals as she finished second behind Dar Re Mi. She concluded the season with a gallant third in the G1 Champion Stakes.
In 2010, everything seemed to be going well for Sariska. She started off with an easy triumph in the G2 Middleton Stakes, while the second place in the G1 Coronation Cup behind Fame and Glory was a respectable one. After a summer break, something happened, though. Although Sariska was a quirky filly even at home and almost killed her trainer, nobody expected her to refuse to race in the Yorkshire Oaks. She simply remained in the gates, which she repeated in the Prix Vermeille in September 2010.
On both occasions, Midday (whom Sariska bettered in three previous outings) prevailed and subsequently added other successes, while Sariska was already retired. Her offspring failed to emulate Sariska’s results in the slightest, but three-year-old Tygress mightn’t have shown everything she could do. Still, she doesn’t look like a G1 winner in the making…
Next time, I’ll look at some other Wayward Warriors, including jumpers and some flat horses who didn’t refuse to race per se, but their shenanigans on the track are still fresh in our minds. And I’m not talking only about Thunder Snow.