You are here

‘Bold’ Hartnell revives memories of old-time Aussie greats

J A McGrath

Accolades were flowing for veteran Hartnell in the aftermath of his courageous win under topweight in Saturday’s G1 Epsom Handicap at Randwick, the highlight of a hugely successful weekend worldwide for Godolphin.

In Japan, the stable’s Fine Needle became only the fifth horse to win the country’s two big sprints in the same year when landing the G1 Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama.

And, in America, Thunder Snow finished a gallant second in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont in an excellent prelude to his attempt at the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Overall, it was a weekend of extraordinary global achievement for horses carrying the royal blue of his Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin.

But, it was the performance of Hartnell in Sydney that really set racing fans buzzing. 

As an eight-year-old (to Australian time), this British-bred son of Derby winner Authorized brought back memories of Australian legends such as Aquanita, Tobin Bronze and Gunsynd when winning Australia’s top mile race of the Spring.

In the 1960s and 1970s, racing in Australia was largely domestic — apart from an annual invasion of New Zealanders around Cup time — hence there was a need for horses to be more versatile and to try distances outside their comfort zone.

Aquanita and Gunsynd were both placed in the two-mile G1 Melbourne Cup, though both were outstanding milers and also won G1 Cox Plates.

Tobin Bronze won the G1 Toorak Handicap and the G1 Doncaster Handicap with exceptional performances — both are over one mile — but he was also classy enough to win a G1 Victoria Derby, two Cox Plates and a G1 Caulfield Cup.

The point I am making is that Hartnell, too, has done it over a variety of distances in a very different era. A two-mile Queen’s Vase winner at Royal Ascot at three for Mark Johnston, his record now stands at 13 wins from 44 starts, and he is going as strong as ever.

James Cummings has trained Hartnell for 12 starts and is unstinting in his praise of the gelding.

“He is one of the more unusual horses I have had anything to do with,” Cummings said.

“He’s just not quite like the good Australian horses I’ve been fortunate enough to saddle up. So You Think won 10 G1s and is up there with the most beautiful horses I have saddled,” he pointed out. 

Cummings explained that Hartnell had different characteristics.

“Hartnell has an amazing boldness about him, and my plan is to keep him bright and happy and try to place him right,” the trainer said admiringly.

Durability and versatility may be attributes worthy of the highest respect, but so, too, is class. And Hartnell is all class.