Chautauqua farewells fans at Turnbull Stakes Day at Flemington Racecourse on October 06, 2018 in Flemington, Australia. (Reg Ryan/Racing Photos)
The ups and downs of racehorse ownership have been embodied by Rupert Legh so far this Spring Racing Carnival, with the prominent owner experiencing a particularly bittersweet day on Turnbull Stakes Day at Flemington on Saturday.
The Melbourne-based businessman owns or part-owns several horses, which race in his distinctive purple and yellow silks with a lightning bolt; but none more high-profile than Chautauqua, who bade farewell to Flemington on Saturday after winning six Group 1s and more than $8.8m in prizemoney during a glorious career on the racetrack.
The ‘Grey Flash’ paraded in front of 22,000 appreciate racegoers, and Legh admitted there was a lump in his throat when he heard the reception given to the enigmatic sprinter.
If that was a bittersweet moment Legh felt only joy when, just before Chautauqua said ‘adieu’ to Flemington, another horse he owns, the highly progressive three-year-old Wild Planet, announced himself as a potential star of the future with an heroic win in the Listed Antler Luggage Stakes.
Those moments, in a nutshell, perfectly encapsulate the joys and occasional sadness of racehorse ownership, according to Legh.
“Saturday was an emotional day for many reasons,” he said.
“We were obviously delighted with the win of Wild Planet, we’ve always had high hopes for him and although he’s not the finished article yet, we think he’s a very exciting prospect.
“Then 30 minutes later, I had mixed feelings during Chautauqua’s parade. He’s given us so much joy and it was great to hear the crowd’s reaction, but we would’ve obviously loved to see him race one more time.”
Legh’s Spring Racing Carnival rollercoaster ride began on Makybe Diva Stakes Day, when he enjoyed one of his greatest days on a racetrack with twin successes for a pair of O’Reilly-sired horses, Brutal and Grunt.
Three-year-old colt Brutal maintained his unbeaten record with a tough front-running win in the Listed Antler Luggage Plate (1400m), before classy entire Grunt added the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) to an already impressive CV that also includes victory in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) last season.
“I’ve had some special moments in racing, but I can’t think of too many days like that,” he reflected.
“To win any race during the Spring Carnival is quite a feat as the level of competition at this time of year is at its peak. To win two stakes races, including a Group 1, is just remarkable and I’m certainly very thankful and appreciative.”
Unfortunately for Legh, Brutal was soon ruled out for the remainder of the Spring Racing Carnival after suffering a minor injury, while Grunt soon followed him into the paddock after his trainer Mick Price ruled out a rematch with the mighty mare Winx in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate.
“I guess that’s racing,” Legh said. “You have to enjoy the wins because you’re going to lose far more races than you win. Just when you think you’re ahead, racing has a habit of bringing you back down to earth. But that’s why we love it.”