Talented three-year-old Harlech will likely have his last start in New Zealand this season when he lines-up in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie on Saturday. The Michael Moroney and Pam Gerard-trained colt is set to head for a freshen-up after this weekend’s rich feature, having won two of his six starts this term and finishing runner-up in his four other contests.
The son of Darci Brahma took out the Group 2 Sarten Memorial Stakes (1400m) in October before finishing runner-up in his next three assignments, including the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) and Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m) last start. Gerard was pleased with his performance at Trentham on January 11 and believes the colt still has a fair bit of developing to do. “I thought he ran super in the Levin Classic,” she said. “It’s just a little bit new to him ending up in front. “Being a colt he just clocked off. He has always had outside draws and he has always come from the back and having something to chase. “I just think he hit the front too soon and was probably just a bit complacent and got a bit lost. All credit to Travelling Light, she ran a super race and she just caught them napping.”
While always tipped to head to Australia at some stage this term Gerard alluded that this weekend’s race will likely be Harlech’s last in New Zealand. “At this stage he is more than likely to head to the paddock after this run,” she said. “We have got to keep everything open at the moment, but the Randwick Guineas (Group 1, 1600m) has always been the main plan for him. “We will get through this race and see how he pulls up. He is a big colt, is still quite physically immature and it is really hard to make long-term plans when they are not quite there yet.”
Gerard said the Levin Classic run took its toll on Harlech, but he is now showing signs of his normal self. “It’s a big trip down to Wellington and it’s always hard to get them to turn around and back up as quick as what they do,” she said. “He was a bit quiet for a few days (after the Levin Classic), but I noticed this (Tuesday) morning he was really starting to come back to his usual self and is starting to get quite obnoxious again, so I am happy enough that he can take his place.”
The Ballymore team will also have two other runners on Saturday. Promising juvenile Dragon Queen will target the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) and Gerard believes she can be competitive after placing in her first three starts. “Dragon Queen has gone some really nice races,” she said. “I don’t know if she is a winning chance, but I do think she can run thereabouts. “She is getting better every start. She is not a big, robust filly, but she is definitely heading in the right direction. “Her last run was super at Ellerslie. She has had a couple of good looks around Ellerslie and I think she can figure in the finish.”
Meanwhile, Pinmedown will return to Ellerslie to contest the Collinsonforex Karaka Cup (2200m) after a forgettable Group 3 City of Auckland Cup (2400m) at the Auckland track on New Year’s Day. “Things did not go well in the City of Auckland Cup,” Gerard said. “We ended up boxed down on the fence and ran into all sorts of trouble (to finish fifth). We just want to rule a line through that run and forget about that. “She has come through that well. She just puts her best foot forward every time she goes out and I think she can be very competitive in this field. “She has got a heart the size of a lion and she is tough. She just has no pain barrier and keeps running up every time you put her out there and she just runs out of her skin. “She is just the type of horse that you want.”
All going to plan after Saturday Pinmedown will be set another stakes assignment. “We will see what happens on Saturday, but she is a lot better right-handed than left-handed and the Herbie Dyke (Group 1, 2000m) field is shaping up quite nicely I think. “Her next start will be a choice between that and the Avondale Cup (Group 2, 2400m).”
Gerard is looking forward to Saturday’s feature meeting and said it’s a reward for all the hard effort put in throughout the year. “That’s what we aim for. If you can’t be racing on those big nights then it’s a long time between drinks. “We do a lot of travelling and long hours. It is hard on the staff and you just live for these nights. “To have horses who can be competitive in those races is where we want to be.”