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HARLECH OFF TO GUINEAS

Now looking to emulate his sire, Harlech (3 c Darci Brahma – Obsession, by Bachelor Duke) sealed a 2000 Guineas (Gr. 1, 1600m) tilt with a thrilling victory in the $100,000 James and Annie Sarten Memorial (Gr. 2, 1400m) on Labour Day at Te Rapa.

Having performed well on the course as a two-year-old, Harlech had resumed with an impressive win in the Maiden 3YO 1200 metres on 18 September before finishing second on unsuitably heavy footing to subsequent Soliloquy Stakes (Gr. 3, 1400m) winner Travelling Light (El Roca) on 12 October, both at Matamata.

Trainers Mike Moroney and Pam Gerard had mapped his programme to the 2000 Guineas on 9 November at Riccarton, and apart from striking a heavy track last start everything else had gone to plan.

“He’s been promising right through, maybe a little hiccup last time to the races but not really when you consider the heavy track,” Gerard said. “He wants a better track. He just needs to learn to settle, get out of the gates well and he’s just going to lap up the mile once we get there.”

Drawn barrier two, riding plans to follow race favourite Equinox (Exceed and Excel) (barrier one), seemed obvious and jockey Michael McNab did so with aplomb. On a nice rein, seventh and five lengths 600m, he speared through a gap in centre track at the 300m and quickened home to win easily.

“He let down super,” McNab said. “I’ve seen him at the track lots and always ask, where is he, where is he? When I got the opportunity to ride him I was really happy. He jumped good, settled good, and savaged the line. Probably be better with something to chase, but he’s going to have something to really chase at Riccarton, so it’ll be good.

“He did feel good underneath and I was able to put a bit of pressure on him early to make him hold his spot and he switched off really good for me.”

On rain-affected Dead4 footing, downgraded a race later to Dead5, Harlech ran the 1400 metres in a highly respectable 1:23.2. After returning $14.60 & $3.10 on the tote, his 2000 Guineas fixed odds tumbled to $10.00, equal third favourite behind the raging $1.15 hot-pot Catalyst (Darci Brahma).

Selected by Paul Moroney and purchased for $100,000 at the 2018 Karaka Book 1 Sale, from The Oaks Stud draft, Harlech is from the multiple stakes performed mare Obsession, winner of the Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr. 2, 1400m) and twice Group One placed in the NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) and Captain Cook Stakes (1600m).

Sire Darci Brahma (Danehill) hardly needs introduction. An outstanding colt that included the 2000 Guineas (Gr. 1, 1600m) and Telegraph Handicap (Gr. 1, 1200m) among five Group One wins, before becoming a multiple champion sire.

Both mother and father raced well as two-year-olds, in particular Darci Brahma who was a Group One winner of the T. J. Smith Stakes (1600m) in Brisbane, and the same mating has already left three foals to race that are all winners (Fixation, Obsessive, and Prince Darci).

Harlech is owned by Hugh Fletcher and his wife, Dame Sian Elias, their son Ned and wife Natalie Fletcher, Roddy and Jenny Paddon, and Alan Schmedje.

Accepting on behalf of the owners, Ned Fletcher said: “It’s an unbelievable thrill for us. Thank you to the club for putting on such a tremendous race day on a fantastic racing surface, and Marie (Leicester) and the Sarten family for their sponsorship. It’s one thing to sponsor as a commercial business because you’re getting something back, but to sponsor out of the goodness of your heart and the love of racing is quite something else.

“My parents have bred a lot of slow horses over the years, and at the end of our tether we got Mike and Paul to purchase this colt. And, it’s already turning out to be a wonderful ride. It’s about 20 years since my parents had a group winner.

“It was a fantastic ride from Michael McNab, using that draw and bringing him through so smoothly. But, the main act and main reason we’re here and the person we’re most grateful to is Pam, who throughout has had a really high opinion of this colt. She has always had her eyes on Riccarton, giving him a chance to get there as an educated horse, and it’s a real pleasure to watch Pam in the stables looking after this horse and being so kind with him.”

Natalie Fletcher added: “Our son, Henry, is the sixth generation of family race goer and he’s just working out how to read the form guide. He said: Does this mean Harlech is in the Guineas and are we going to Christchurch?

Race sponsor Marie Leicester, daughter of James and Annie Sarten, and breeder of reigning Horse of the Melody Belle (Commands) said: “It is 80 years since their first foal arrived on the ground and she was called Belle Fox, by Foxbridge out of Belle Star. I salute my parents for their foresight and breeding of that family, which I’ve carried on since the late 80s and enjoyed every moment. Melody Belle is sixth generation.

“Congratulations to the owners, to you, Pam, and to Mike Moroney, and jockey Michael McNab.”

In reply, Gerard said: “Thank you to Karyn (Fenton-Ellis) and your committee. It’s great to get a good track. It’s been a long winter and it’s been hard getting these good horses going.

“How good is it to have the Fletcher tartan out there? It’s exciting for Mike and Paul and everyone involved. It’s great to have the Patton’s here, all the way from Winton, and it’s their first thoroughbred. And, especially, thank you to Marie.”

Harlech was strapped by Michael Thompson. 
[28 Oct 19]

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