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Sun's future racing plans become the biggest question

6 min read
The future of G1 Caulfield Guineas' winner The Autumn Sun has become one of the hottest topics in racing as John Messara indicates he'll be limited to races up to 2000m.

With a clash against Winx (Street Cry {Ire}) in the G1 Cox Plate seemingly off the agenda for Caulfield Guineas winner The Autumn Sun (Redoute's Choice), Arrowfield chief John Messara believes the future of racing's new superstar will see him limited to races up to 2000m.

The racing world has been buzzing with possibility in the 24 hours since The Autumn Sun's emphatic 4.5L win in the Guineas, with hopes the 3-year-old could try and upend stablemate Winx's attempt for four straight wins in the Cox Plate.

"Let’s talk Monday and let things settle. There's plenty of pundits sending me emails and text messages telling me to take the mare on. I don’t want to be the one that shot Bambi." - John Messara on the possibility of a clash with Winx

Speaking to Sky Racing Radio, Messara, who bought into a half share in the colt last week, said a final decision on the Cox Plate would not be made until at least Monday, but the feeling was that The Autumn Sun would head to the paddock.

"Chris (Waller - trainer) and I made a truce and said we wouldn’t discuss it until after the weekend. We said we’d let him get through the race and I believed he pulled up well," Messara said.

"Let’s talk Monday and let things settle. There's plenty of pundits sending me emails and text messages telling me to take the mare on. I don’t want to be the one that shot Bambi."

"I'd have to leave town. Even if we could beat her, would you want to beat her?"

"But Chris has said to me, 'if you want to run him in the Cox Plate, that's fine by me. Let them run on their merit and whatever happens, happens'."

The likelihood that a clash with Winx won’t eventuate at Moonee Valley is supported by the other owner in the colt, Hermitage Thoroughbreds.

"I don’t believe Chris will want to put the pressure on a young immature horse to run in the Cox Plate against such a hot, hot mare like Winx, or even those other horses in the race," Hermitage's Oliver Koolman told RSN.

"It could burst him and the attitude of the syndicate is to nurture him for longevity. Whilst I'm sure the lure of going off to stud particularly early is there and he's ticked the boxes, in our minds, we’d like to do a little bit more yet."

Koolman, like Messara, did admit that the presence of Winx is a significant factor in any decision.

Whilst I'm sure the lure of going off to stud particularly early is there and he's ticked the boxes, in our minds, we’d like to do a little bit more yet." - Hermitage Thoroughbred's Oliver Koolman

"To have a horse like him, any other year, you’d probably give him a go. In all seriousness, Chris is a horseman, he loves his animals, he wants them to race for a long time," he said.

"He'll probably come home now and get ready for the autumn and that'll be up to Chris."

Best still to come

What is frightening for any of The Autumn Sun's potential rivals going forward, is that all involved with the horse agree that he has substantial room for improvement.

"He only weighs around 480kg for a 3-year old colt in his prime and he's quite a decent-sized horse, he's not a small horse," Messara said.

"So you can see he hasn’t filled out yet and he's quite narrow still. I think he'll come back a different horse next year and that's what the trainer thinks as well, so we've got a bit to look forward to."

John and Kristine Messara

For Hermitage, playing the long game is something that has been part of their strategy all along and Koolman thinks that will pay significant dividends over the next 12-18 months.

"He's a pretty smart horse and what we are enthused about is the fact that he is doing it very early in his maturity. There is certainly a bit more furnishing to do yet and a bit more to come. One thing about Chris, and now with Arrowfield involved, we'll have that chance," he said.

"We have got a small number of horses and we know that when they go there they are going to be looked after and we are going to enjoy those horses for a number of seasons, not just a flash in the pan."

How far will he get?

While Hermitage always viewed him as an ATC Derby horse, and purchased him with that in mind, Messara, who under the deal to buy the colt has the say on his racing decisions, believes he won’t be asked to push out to longer distances.

"He's got plenty of speed when he needs it. My inclination is to keep him to the mile distance if Chris is in agreement. He'll guide us with that." - John Messara

"He should (run a Derby distance), but he probably won't try to get any further. We'll limit him to 2000m and special races at that distance like the Cox Plate and the Queen Elizabeth. I don't think there is any need to push him out any further than that," he said.

"He's got plenty of speed when he needs it. My inclination is to keep him to the mile distance if Chris is in agreement. He'll guide us with that."

Immediately after the race, Waller indicated overseas races could be on The Autumn Sun's agenda and Koolman confirmed that those plans had been on Hermitage's radar more so than any tilt at the Cox Plate this year.

But interestingly Messara feels the long-term breeding prospects of The Autumn Sun wouldn’t necessarily be enhanced by winning in Europe or elsewhere.

"We live in Australia, we stand our horses in Australia, and this is where our broodmares are," he said in reference to Arrowfield.

"My interests are in Australia before anywhere else. Nevertheless, it is enticing to think you might be competitive over there."