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Godolphin greats: Hartnell, the horse who never went down without a fight

Hartnell is one of Godolphin’s true globetrotters. A horse that captured the hearts of both racing fans and those fortunate enough to work with him, thanks to his versatility, courageous attitude. Hartnell never went down without a fight.

His story begins in the UK in 2011, when he was foaled at Rutland Stud, on the outskirts of Newmarket.

Hartnell is by former Darley stallion and Derby winner Authorized and out of the Anabaa mare Debonnaire, who Mark Johnston trained to victories at two and three.

In late 2012, Hartnell (named after Norman Hartnell, the eminent Royal fashion designer and former dressmaker to the Queen and the Queen Mother) travelled to the north of England, to the same yard where his dam was trained, to begin his own racing career with Mark Johnston.

Having broken his maiden by four lengths in the September of his juvenile year, Hartnell recorded two further wide-margin wins at two, including a 10-length demolition of the field in the Zetland Stakes on Newmarket’s Rowley Mile course.

He rounded off his campaign with a creditable third in the G1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud, finishing the best of all the British challengers that day.

Hartnell reappeared at three in the Derby Trial at Epsom, but the undulating track wasn’t to his liking and he finished fifth. Less than a month later, and another Derby Trial (this time at Lingfield), saw him give a far better account of himself, finishing second.

With a return to the twists and turns of Epsom ruled out, Hartnell headed instead to Royal Ascot for the Queen’s Vase. Relishing the extra distance, he won far more easily than the neck margin would suggest and added a well-deserved first Stakes win to his CV.

Victory in the G3 Bahrain Trophy on Newmarket’s July course followed and Hartnell showed what was by now becoming his customary tenacity, dictating from the front to win by almost three lengths.

When things didn’t go to plan in the St Leger that autumn, it was decided that Hartnell would continue his career in the southern hemisphere, and so he headed to Australia in November 2014.

Swiftly stepping back up to G1 level, Hartnell did well to finish second to Contributer, his stablemate and paternal half-brother, in the one-mile Chipping Norton Stakes.

In March 2015, Hartnell added his first G1 victory in The BMW at Rosehill, demonstrating his amazing versatility by winning a race run over a mile and a half. The contest has been won by some of horseracing’s all-time greats, including Octagonal and Makybe Diva.

Hartnell added a second top-flight win the following October, as he cruised to the easiest of victories in the G1 Turnbull Stakes – another race where the past winners read like a ‘who’s who’ of Australia’s racing greats.

Finding only the incomparable Winx too good in the Cox Plate next time out, Hartnell then finished a remarkable third in the G1 Melbourne Cup, the ‘race that stops a nation’.

August 2017 saw him add an outstanding seventh Group win to his record, this time in the G2 P B Lawrence Stakes, and he would go on to place twice more at G1 level during that campaign.

Come February 2018 and Hartnell recorded perhaps his most remarkable G1 win, flying home to land the seven-furlong C F Orr Stakes. This was no mean feat for a horse who won his first Stakes race over two miles at Ascot.

Hartnell took his fourth and final G1 in October 2018, once again showing grit and determination, getting up in the dying strides to win the Epsom Handicap over a mile at Randwick.

He retired in November 2019, having started in a remarkable 58 races – 34 at the highest level. Had it not been for Winx, that tally of G1 wins would have surely been higher.

Hartnell carried the Godolphin blue to victory in no fewer than eight Group races, a figure that can only beaten by the outstanding pair Blue Point and Benbatl.

During his career, he amassed prize money of almost A$7.5 million and gained numerous fans.

One very special fan indeed is Reg Fleming, Godolphin’s senior foreman at Carbine Lodge stables in Melbourne.

Reg’s devotion to Hartnell did not stop when his racing career concluded, as he remains in his care to this day and is now training for a future in the show ring and as a Godolphin Lifetime Care ambassador.

Reg reported on Hartnell’s progress earlier this week, “We’re lucky Hartnell has got a good attitude and that he’s a quick learner.

“We’re starting to take him out and about to see and experience different places and different situations.

“Like many other ‘off-the-track’ horses, Hartnell has been used to going quick, so he’s had to learn to slow down and relax!

“He’s doing lots of long, slow trotting: big circles, small circles, figure of eights and lots of flexing. He is doing things he’s probably never done before.

“The way he’s going now is great and we are looking forward to the future with him.”