Hartnell takes a shine to Sydney

15 April 2024 Written by VRC

On the track Hartnell boasted an impressive racing record, including victories in four Group 1 races. Since retiring in 2019, the 13-year-old bay gelding has found a new career as a show horse. Alongside his dedicated partner, prominent Victorian equestrian Sheralee Patterson, he recently headed interstate to compete at the Sydney Royal Easter Show as the next stage of their competitive partnership.

Bred by Darley in the United Kingdom, Hartnell made his mark on the Australian turf when he arrived at the end of his 3YO year in December 2014. Racing for Godolphin, Hartnell was trained initially by John O'Shea and later by James Cummings, and clinched notable victories in prestigious races such as the Group 1 BMW (Tancred), the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes, and the Group 1 C.F. Orr Stakes. With three Melbourne Cup appearances under his belt (2015), (2016), (2017) and a string of Group 1 wins, Hartnell solidified his status as one of Australia's most celebrated racehorses.

Upon his retirement, Godolphin surprised Reg Fleming, their legendary assistant trainer, by offering him the opportunity to become the custodian of Hartnell – a horse with whom he had a special relationship – post-racing.

In discussion with a close family friend of over three decades and a part of the legendary Patterson family, Sheralee and Reg believed Hartnell had another champion career ahead of him, and Reg entrusted Hartnell to Sheralee to retrain him as a a show horse and see where the journey would lead.

Sheralee was keen for him to join the ranks of esteemed ex-racehorses like Precedence, Lankan Rupee, and Chautauqua, who have transitioned into show horses.

The Off the Track (OTT) superstar is part of the Godolphin Lifetime Care flagbearer program and has since made his mark in the show arena, thriving in his new career. Being a quick learner and having a “show-off attitude” has served him well, along with his overall presence and stride. His achievements so far include a number of champion and reserve champion sashes at agricultural shows across Victoria, winning the OTT Fashions on the Field class at Melbourne Royal Show last year, and second place in the Led Thoroughbred class at last year’s Adelaide Royal Show.

His latest challenge was travelling to compete at the 2024 Sydney Royal Easter Show for the first time. He was entered in four events including the Led Thoroughbred, Pope Cup, Open Ridden Hack and Lady’s Ridden Hack. First held in 1823, Sydney Royal Easter Show is renowned for being the biggest and busiest show on the Royal agricultural show calendar. Unfortunately, this made for a challenging atmosphere for Hartnell, who had to contend with dodgem cars and a showjumping speed class right next to his ring. This understandably was quite overwhelming for the beautiful bay gelding. Despite this, Sheralee said she was very proud of the way he coped with the testing environment.

“He was definitely becoming more settled the longer he stayed in Sydney, improving with each class and his best performance was in his final class, the Lady’s Ridden Hack,” Sheralee said.

“Every horse is an individual, some take longer than others to adapt to a show career and Hartnell was definitely not on his own (in Sydney), many other more seasoned horses also struggled to cope with the atmosphere. They are like children, some cope better in different situations.

“He will go to Darley’s Northwood Park for a nice spell now and then he will come back into work ready to compete at the Adelaide Royal Show and Melbourne Royal Show in Spring.”

When asked how long his showing career could last, Sheralee was typically pragmatic.

“He’ll compete until he says he’s had enough, it’s all up to him, he’s the boss and I do what he tells me. He’ll tell me when he wants to laze around in a paddock of green grass but I don’t think that will be for awhile because he enjoys having something to do. He could easily keep competing until his late teens.”