A freakish Sydney colt is being considered for the Royal Ascot trip world champion stablemate Winx never made if all goes as planned in his Australian autumn campaign over the next two months.
It was a rare performance, a dominance rarely seen in a G1 classic, but when The Autumn Sun coasted to the line, eased right up, in the Caulfield Guineas in October, he had the most conservative racegoers searching for superlatives (see video below). The Redoute’s Choice colt sat three wide the entire 1600 metres and just eased away from Australia’s best 3-year-olds on straightening, before winning by more than four lengths as James McDonald stood up in the irons for the last 50 metres.
It was a win of sheer arrogance, and it suggested this might be the best 3-year-old seen in Australia since So You Think announced himself as a future superstar in 2009.
Talk immediately turned to the colt being a worthy opponent to the incomparable Winx as she prepared to win a fourth Cox Plate, and the disappointment was palpable when the trainer of both horses, Chris Waller, announced there would be no clash. Winx was a seasoned world champion and connections concluded taking her on would present an unnecessary risk for such a remarkable colt so early in his career. Despite that, some questioned whether the decision was to ensure the great mare would make it four straight Cox Plates.
Part-owner John Messara was more measured in his view at the time, suggesting the Cox Plate may have been a bridge too far for The Autumn Sun at just his seventh start when the world would be at his feet in 2019. The owner of Arrowfield Stud is now balancing The Autumn Sun’s value as a stallion prospect with the almost irresistible temptation of seeing the colt dominate Australia before a possible overseas campaign.
“He’s had the needles so we’re right to go to Royal Ascot if we want to go,” he says. “He’s a very valuable stallion prospect now, so we’re going to have to be careful. We’re going to enter him for everything and decide as time goes on. If we go to Ascot, I think the Queen Anne would be the race for him.
“We’re keeping our options open but a race like the [G2] Hobartville [February 23] would be the ideal starting point for the preparation, building up to the [G1] Randwick Guineas in March. A lot of 3-year-olds then go on to the Rosehill Guineas and the [Australian] Derby, but we might jump off the train at that point and look at the weight-for-age races over around a mile.
“I think he will go beyond a mile if we want him to. If we keep him fresh, he could win over shorter distances too. He’s put on a lot of beef in all the right places and matured a lot. We may see a significant improvement in him in the next few months, even on what he’s shown us so far.”
Messara is confident we haven’t seen anything like the best of The Autumn Sun, giving a hint that a Royal Ascot trip would not be beyond the freakish colt. He’s already as short as 10/1 in betting for the G1 Queen Anne, and a commitment from connections would push him close to favouritism.
“He was a great sort when I sold him, as a yearling and I never stopped trying to buy back into him from the moment the hammer fell,” Messara recalls. “After every trial win and every race, I was super impressed by him. Chris Waller always had enormous confidence in his ability, so I knew he was going to be good, but I was really impressed by his win in the [G1] Golden Rose. Then he won the Guineas in such a facile way after sitting three wide throughout, which is usually a killer at Caulfield, winning by five lengths even though the jock dropped his hands about 60 from home.
“Whatever he’s done, he’s capable of doing more. He raced at 480 kilograms, which is not a big weight for a 3-year-old in his prime, and I would expect him to grow into a 510 to 525 kilogram horse.”
If trainer Waller has any say in the matter, Royal Ascot should be preparing to host the Australian colt. He had admitted some regret in not taking Winx overseas and will be suggesting the trip to the colt’s owners.
“We left it too late [but] I doubt we will miss out with this one,” Waller says. “The Autumn Sun is one of the horses that make you go ‘wow’. Sitting wide like that would bring most horses undone, especially first time around Caulfield, but it just showed how good he is, considering he’s not fully mature yet.”
The Autumn Sun’s record now stands at five wins, including three at G1 level, and a third placing that came on a heavy track at Rosehill after he was desperately searching for a run behind horses for virtually the entire length of the straight.
That single defeat takes a lot of pressure off connections, particularly Waller, who has had to deal with the weight of expectation every time Winx has gone out to race as her winning streak - now 29 - continued to grow. The Autumn Sun is likely to only be protecting a handful of straight wins when he gets to Royal Ascot, with the Queen Anne the perfect opportunity to prove himself a world-class colt.
The Autumn Sun - the story so far
- 6 starts, 5 wins, 1 3rd
- BC, 02 Sept 15, Redoute’s Choice (by Danehill) - Azmiyna (by Galileo)
- Trainer: Chris Waller
- Jockeys: Kerrin McEvoy, James McDonald