All heart for Hartnell
He was the courageous and versatile horse on the track that captured the hearts of fans everywhere, and looks to do the same in his new career. Fortunately, Hartnell has not moved too far away from the Flemington action, as he is also still visited almost daily by his greatest fan of all, Reg Fleming.
Even after labouring from early morning until dusk in the spacious stables of James Cummings at Flemington, one of his long-time lieutenants still had an important job to do when the last of their horses has been fed.
Reg Fleming, dedicated foreman for Cups King Bart Cummings and now a valuable component in Bart’s grandson’s training establishment always finds time most days to visit some of their former champions.
Fleming joined the Cummings family in the late 1980s but has been an ardent supporter of horses' needs and welfare during and after their careers.
On most days Fleming travels to the Patterson family, friends of the former Queenslander who are looking after weight-for-age hero Hartnell who retired early last year.
Hartnell was a winner of four Group 1 races and was also second to Australia's greatest race mare Winx in four of their eight meetings.
“He was very special, he loved a cuddle, he loved a pat, he was so kind and yet at the races he was so brave and so honest. I call in and see him most days, give him a pat, have a talk to him but I try to catch up with so many of our horses to see that they’re going okay,” Fleming said.
Fleming has been a long-time advocate that horses should be cared for and respected in training and then looked after in their retirement.
“With Hartnell he gave his all. He was a winner at 1400m in Australia and two miles in England. He gave us everything (winner of $7.4 million in prize money) so we’ve got to return the kindness he showed us.
“Horses don’t last a long time. Their career may be just a few years from being a yearling to a three-year-old. They get little niggles and problems that can sometimes end their careers suddenly.
“But I can tell you that as a man who has been with horses all my career and watched my father also give a lifetime to racing, the lesson is that we should never forget that without the horses and their courage and brilliance we would have nothing. No horse, no employment and the world would miss out on seeing a wonderful animal,” Fleming said.
Hartnell is enjoying his life learning the ropes at becoming a show horse, with a placid temperament, clean legs and a stunning coat, the horse is the envy of all of that fraternity that see him.
However, Fleming is at pains to explain that Hartnell’s future in the equestrian world will be a slow process of the horse learning the discipline, but at the same time enjoying his new venture into the show world.
He’s got a physique, he’s got an ability to be quick on his feet, he’s got intelligence and strength to be extremely successful in his life in the show ring.
“He’s shown already a great liking for it, but it’s probably us, the people who really love him, being over cautious wanting nothing to go wrong with the horse who has given us so much.
“He’s got a physique, he’s got an ability to be quick on his feet, he’s got intelligence and strength to be extremely successful in his life in the show ring.”
Fleming and his former trainer, James Cummings, make no secret that they are cautious with Hartnell and while he exudes all of the requirements for a successful show career, they maintain there’s no rush “to get him on the road”.
At this stage, Hartnell is being taken through the rudimentary part of show work and both Patterson and Fleming admit that the horse has adapted quickly to the new lifestyle.
(Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)