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By Graham Potter | Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Harrovian’s exhilarating win at Eagle Farm on Saturday was his eighth win in a row and his eleventh from thirteen starts for trainer Stephen Massingham. (He finished second in the two starts in which he was beaten).

By any standards, Massingham has done an amazing job with the now seven-year-old son of Fastnet Rock but, when you hear the back-story, their run of achievement reaches greater heights.

The Harrovian started his career in Victoria where he scored three wins from fourteen starts in the two years from May 2016 to May 2018 … before he changed stables moving from Jim Conlan to the Massingham yard.

“The horse himself … character-wise and that … was never a problem, but he has been prone to have something go wrong with him all of the time,” said Massingham.

“When we got him from down south, he got travel sickness on the way up … so badly that we didn’t think he was going to survive,” continued Massingham. “So, I think it was about the first seven weeks that he spent in Queensland that he was at the vet in Brisbane.

“He came good and we got him home and put him in the paddock. Then he won his first start over 1250m in a Class 3 in Cairns (on March 16, 2019). Then he ran second in an Open Handicap at Townsville … and then won another two in a row before finishing second the North Queensland Cup (on June 27, 2019).

That was the last time The Harrovian tasted defeat.

“In that preparation he won all of those Cups before he went to the paddock again,” said Massingham.

‘All of those Cups’ being a Townsville Cup (on July 27, 2019), a Cairns Cup (on August 10, 2019 and a Cairns Amateurs Cup (on September 14).

“I brought him back … I think it was early February and he got a chest infection and he was at the vet for four days. Then he came back and won those first two starts with those big weights.”

Interesting to note here is The Harrovian’s weight carrying capacity. In that first-up win following a seven month layoff The Harrovian gave the second placed runner, the $1.75 favourite Love Is Blind, 10.5kg at the weights (65.5kg to 55kg) and a 2.75 length beating on the track. The Harrovian started at $10 that day … a price about his chances that has not been seen again!

In his second-up run The Harrovian started at $1.75. This time he gave the runner-up 12kg and a 1.75 length beating.

“So, after he had those two starts I put him in the paddock preparing to send him to Brisbane … then Covid hit so we couldn’t travel him anyway but he got an ulcer in the eye so he was stuck at the vets again for five weeks before he came out after a month away from racing and won the Cairns Newmarket.

‘After that, at the end of the day, going to Brisbane was really our only option.

“When he left here the other day I said to the vet Ethan, ‘your best mate is leaving town.’

“So, the decision was made to take him to Brisbane but how we got him there wasn’t that simple given his travel sickness problems before.

“Les Rudd, from Rudd’s horse transport, brought him from Melbourne when he first got sick and Les played a big part in saving his life with the vets. He was really sick the first three or four days and Les stayed with him twenty-four-seven.

“Understandably, Les has got a bit of an attachment to the horse and when I rang him and said, ‘Les, I’ve got a favour to ask’ … he said, ‘oh, please don’t ask me what I think you are going to ask me’.

“I said …yeah … can you take The Harrovian to Brisbane for me? He said, ‘look, let me think about it.’ He rang me back the next day and said he thought the best thing would be if I brought the horse down myself … and that’s what happened.

“I was lucky enough to have a stable companion for him when I left home. I retired an old horse … old Crocodile Shoes … and put him in a ten horse truck with The Harrovian so he had company on the trip. I had found a home for the horse I retired in Toowoomba.

“We just took our time and didn’t travel much over four-and-a-half hours at any one time. We got down there in two-and-a-half days … and they travelled very well actually.

We were very pleased with that and then he sort of thrived when we got to the Gold Coast. He likes it there.

“The jockeys, of course, play their part in horse’s story.

“Chris (Whiteley) rode him originally (for five of The Harrovian’s first six starts for the stable) … but Chris got off him for something else in the Townsville Cup and I managed to jag Robert Thompson and Robbie rode him in those big wins.

“When he came back into work, I obviously knew he was going to get a bit of weight and I knew Aidan (Holt) was on the comeback. I’ve been friends with Aidan for a long time and I was very happy to put him on.

“The only other jockey that rode him for me before Saturday was Nathan Day. One ride he had did Nathan … he ran second on him in The Harrovian’s second start for me. That day Nathan got off him in Townsville he told me he’d win every cup in North Queensland. In fact, he tried to book himself for the ride there and then. Turned out he is a good judge.

“Coming to Brisbane, I spoke with Tom Hedley, in whose colours The Harrovian races, and my brother about jockeys. I always want to chase the best rider available. I am a bit of a punter and I follow races a fair bit … and I think Brad Stewart is a very good rider. He has got very good hands.

“We decided on Brad … if we could get him … and, of course, it also came down to what sort of weight the horse would have. That’s how we ended up with Brad.

There are plenty of good riders in Brisbane, but we were just lucky enough to be able to get Brad and he and the horse combined to make it a real highlight for us.

“The Harrovian has given me many memorable moments as a trainer but, behind the scenes, there are so many people in The Harrovian’s story who have been quite amazing.

“The vets in Brisbane saved his life with that travel sickness … and anything that has gone wrong up here the two vets, Ethan Moloney and Roxanne Harvey, have had it covered. They have all been amazing.

Les Rudd played a big part as I said, and, of course, then there was (owner) Tom Hedley, in whose distinctive colours The Harrovian runs.

“When Les (Rudd) rang me that first day from Brisbane with the horse down with travel sickness saying he was worried about whether the horse would survive … he really thought he was going to die … somehow the vet found out that Tom owned him.

“She phoned Tom and told him the position … we had been told that the horse needed ten litres of plasma at $400 a litre … and Tom said to her, ‘you need to do whatever you need to do to save him,’ so he got the $4000 worth of plasma … no worries.

“Tom is a champion bloke.

“So, there are a lot of people to thank for us getting this far with him … and also credit has to be given to the horse.

“Three or four days into that travel sickness, Les told me that The Harrovian must have a big heart because he said most horses would have given up. Les said he had a will to win.

"He didn’t want to lose the fight against his sickness then … and, as he showed on Saturday, he has continued to show that he has that fight in him on the track.

“He doesn’t like to lay down … that’s for sure!”

More articles

Brad Stewart brings The Harrovian back to scale after his victory at Eagle Farm
Brad Stewart brings The Harrovian back to scale after his victory at Eagle Farm
Connections looking reasonably relaxed before the race ...
Connections looking reasonably relaxed before the race ...
... and The Harrovian looking a picture going down to the start ...
... and The Harrovian looking a picture going down to the start ...
... and in for the fight when it mattered most
... and in for the fight when it mattered most
These photos (above and below) tell their own story
These photos (above and below) tell their own story
Photos: Graham Potter
Photos: Graham Potter
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