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Bloodstock agent James Harron watched on with a mix of excitement and apprehension as six of his high-profile colts made their first public appearance in the first set of Randwick two-year-old trials on Monday.
For the most precocious of prospects – those who fetch seven-figure amounts as yearlings and are slated as likely early two-year-olds – D-Day can come around very quickly.
The late September Randwick two-year-old trials, an ‘orientation day’ of sorts for the early bloomers, is a first major test of maturity and talent. But it is as much a test of mental readiness as physical capability with performances likely to shape upcoming two-year-old campaigns.
Past champions Pierro, Vancouver and Capitalist are among those who used this particular set of trials as their first public audition, and the success of that trio and many others has made them a much-anticipated date on the racing calendar.
Few had more anticipation ahead of Monday’s set of trials than James Harron, the bloodstock agent whose signature has featured regularly on the most expensive yearling colts in Australia.
Harron, who buys on behalf of a colts syndicate looking to unearth potential stallion prospects, had six colts line up in his dark green and gold colours on Monday. They cost a combined $4.07 million at this year’s yearling sales.
“You are excited and nervous all at the same time,” Harron told Asian Racing Report of the experience. “The reality is it is their first major test where they are asked to go through all the motions on the course proper at Royal Randwick. It’s quite a big ask for them to come out and do it.
“What I have found over the years is it’s just amazing how well-educated and professional these horses are coming into these trials. You get a really good look at them and you see which ones are ready to progress on and which ones aren’t.”
Seven years ago, a Written Tycoon colt in Harron’s colours powered home to victory in one of the first two-year-old trials. Less than two weeks later that colt, Capitalist, romped to a three-length success in the Breeders’ Plate, setting himself up as a future stallion in his first racetrack appearance.
He would go on to frank that reputation with wins in the Magic Millions 2YO Classic and Golden Slipper and be crowned Australia’s Champion 2YO. He is now enjoying a lucrative career as a stallion at Newgate, serving over 200 mares a season at a fee of $99,000.
Capitalist has been the model on which Harron has been able to build his colts syndicate, so it was no surprise to see the dark green and gold colours to the fore again on Monday, with two $1 million-plus colts fighting out the finish of the third of ten juvenile heats.
Mach Gun is a son of Exceed And Excel, purchased off Fernrigg Farm for $1.2 million at this year’s Magic Millions Yearling Sale, while the I Am Invincible colt Godfather is a full-brother to young stallion I Am Immortal who cost for $1.1 million at that same Gold Coast sale.
Mach Gun is prepared by Michael Freedman, while Godfather is with Peter and Paul Snowden, the same stable as Capitalist excelled in.
“It was funny when they both went in the same heat, given Michael Freedman and the Snowdens both had good opinions of them going in. It was just great to see them do everything so professionally and make each other work hard to the line,” Harron said.
Mach Ten led the field up in the 850-metre trial and while he was strongly challenged and headed by Godfather inside the final 200 metres, he fought back well to score by 0.4 of a length on the line with another 4.4 lengths back to the rest of the field.
“Mach Ten had the hide there to challenge Godfather”
$1.2M Exceed And Excel colt Mach Ten, trained by @MFreedmanRacing, wins a trial at Royal Randwick on Monday, beating $1.1M (I Am Invincible) colt Godfather and Kintyre (Hallowed Crown) ran third. @tabcomau @mmsnippets pic.twitter.com/Vto71vnjBm
— Racing NSW (@racing_nsw) September 18, 2022
It was the sort of performance from both colts which would please any managing owner with designs on the Breeders’ Plate. Harron said while the pair had similar maturity profiles, they were different types of horses.
“Mach Ten is quite a high energy, alert type of horse, who showed great quality when he dug in and competed with Godfather. Godfather is probably carrying more condition. He’s a big strong type of colt and I think he’s got quite a bit of improvement to come,” he said.
“He should tighten up nicely from today. He handles everything very well. He’s very laid back in all his work and he has got a very good way about him.”
Both will likely front-up in 12 days’ time in the Listed Breeders’ Plate, the opening stakes race of the season for two-year-old colts, and a key window to a future career at stud.
“The Breeders’ Plate has been a fantastic race to sort out those really precocious horses and it’s a really good pathway through to the Magic Millions for those Magic Millions graduates,” Harron said.
“You get that run into them, give them a break and get them through that preparation.”
Of Harron’s other colts in action on Monday, the best performed was the Freedman-trained Mexico, who finished third in Heat 7, while stablemates Gun and Dublin trailed the field home in their heats (1 and 5), and the Snowden-trained Disrupt was fifth in Heat 9.
Harron said that while those colts might not be ready for the racetrack just yet, the education will be of significant long-term benefit.
“The early ones tend to pick themselves as they are ready for it, enjoy it and are bred and built that way. Some of them, you go there with an open mind and they will be just a bit off the bridle and a bit slow to get into gear and they are probably not ready yet,” he said.
Three years ago, the Snowdens took Harron’s $1.4 million Redoute’s Choice colt King’s Legacy to the first trials and he went straight for a spell after finishing fourth. He returned in the autumn to win two Group 1 races.
“It’s important not to come away from these things either too excited or too disappointed. You have to play each horse to their strengths,” Harron said.
“There will be some horses that go to the paddock tomorrow morning which will come back and be lovely horses later on.”
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