Where to next for the mighty Chautauqua?
IN the trainers hut at Cranbourne, the hard-bitten souls who watched on the TV screens took what could be the last racetrack appearance of one of the great sprinters in their stride.
When the superstar didn't appear from the barriers in trial two at 8.45am there were no oohs and aahs.
There was virtually no reaction at all to the great Chautauqua's refusal to do what until not long ago he did better than any other sprinter in the world - run.
The trainers, the pro punters, the owners, the trackriders and jockeys were more worried about what was happening in the unfolding 800m trial than a seven-year-old gelding standing like a statue in the barriers.
Racing moves on quickly. They weren't bothered that the headline-grabbing Chautauqua's career was at a standstill after a fourth refusal to race on the trot.
Co-trainer Wayne Hawkes summed it up best: "If they don't want to do it. They don't want to do it."
It was virtually unanimous among Hawkes' peers that Chautauqua, as a gelding with no breeding prospects, should be retired.
John Sadler, who has been training for over almost 40 years, said the situation reminded him of when he trained Black Caviar's grand-dam Scandinavia.
"She wasn't Black Caviar but she was a high-class sprinter," Sadler said.
"One day she said that's it. Her whole demeanour was that's it, I'm over it. There's nothing I could do to turn her around."
Veteran jockey Brian Werner recalled when he was an apprentice, master trainer Angus Armanasco had a brilliant sprinter called Misty Brae.
"Misty Brae didn't want to jump from the barriers," Werner said.
"That was it. I watched Chautauqua's replay. In the gates he was looking around. He couldn't be bothered."
Another veteran trackwatcher said horses not jumping from barriers was more common than people thought.
"The difference with this one is that it's a high-profile horse," he said.
The Hawkes team had been hoping noted horse whisperer, the horse breaker Julien Welsh, could turn around Chautauqua's recalcitrance.
Chautauqua had spent the past week with Welsh, who had tried some different things with the grey. Welsh brought the horse to the track on Monday morning and even sat on his back before letting Dwayne Dunn on.
"I hope it's not the end but it certainly could be," Hawkes said. "He's always been a bit fractious at the gates but he wasn't (Monday), which was the concern. Dwayne Dunn said that he was so relaxed, he knew he wasn't going to jump."
Hawkes said Chautauqua owed the Hawkes team and the owners nothing.
"He's won five Group 1s and eight-and-a-half-million (dollars)," Hawkes said.
"He's up there with Lonhro and Octagonal and All Too Hard and all those great horses. He's as good a sprinter as you'll ever see.
"All the good sprinters are leaders and being a backmarker it's never easy. I think about Hong Kong and three TJ (Smiths). He hasn't died and everything comes to an end."
Owner Ruper Leigh said the outcome was disappointing for all involved and an attempt to win a fourth T.J Smith Stakes had been shelved.
"The TJ is definitely off the agenda. He'll be going to the paddock," Leigh said on RSN 927.
"The most important thing is to get his mojo back. It's a bad habit that we have to get out of his head."
Leigh was adamant the champion sprinter was in immaculate condition and physically 100 per cent sound.
"There is no way known John (Hawkes) is going to jeopardise this horse. It's a mystery to all of us. Everything he did this week suggested he was a happy horse and wanted to race.
"We hoping we can get him back."
Hawkes said Chautauqua would head to the paddock with a decision on his future to come later.
So at Randwick on April 7, there will be no trademark finishing burst, no Grey Flash in an attempt to land a fourth T.J Smith Stakes.
Even the hard-bitten group in the trainers' hut at Cranbourne are likely to miss him then.