Harpo Has The Last Word At Rosehill Gardens

Scott Darby was horrified when he watched Harpo Marx contest his first two Australian barrier trials. The founder and CEO of Darby Racing had purchased the royally bred horse in 2019 from the Coolmore draft at a Tattersall’s Horses In Training Sale at Newmarket.

“His first trial was over 900m at Goulburn in March of last year and although the trip was way too short he finished a mile from the winner,” recalled Scott. “A couple of weeks later he beat a couple home in a Warwick Farm trial over 1200m but was terribly one paced. I remember thinking how unfortunate it was that hurdle racing had all but disappeared in Australia.”

Scott had been dabbling in the overseas market on behalf of his syndication company for four years with mixed success. “Our first import was a French mare called Eesha who went to Hayes and Dabernig but failed to place in five starts,” he said.

“Next experiment was to purchase four yearlings at auction in England, two of which have done the job. Canasta has won four races for Bjorn Baker including one on the Kenso track and finished second at Rosehill on Saturday. True Marvel has won four provincial races for Matthew Smith with more to come. The other two horses didn’t measure up.”

Scott has a good working relationship with highly regarded Irish bloodstock consultant Hubie de Burgh who’s been involved in the business for forty years. He spent the first twenty as consultant and adviser to Sheikh Hamdan whose thoroughbred empire was developing rapidly. Hubie started his own consultancy business de Burgh Equine in 2003, with headquarters in County Wicklow a stone’s throw from The Curragh.

“I was mildly excited when I spotted Harpo Marx in the Tattersall’s catalogue, principally because of his Aussie connection,” said Scott Darby. “He’s by the incomparable Galileo, sire of a world record 85 Group 1 winners but I was more connected to his dam Nechita.”

The Fastnet Rock mare had won three races from only four starts before the collapse of the Patinack Farm empire. She won a 2YO race at Warwick Farm and the Gr 3 Silver Shadow Stakes on the same course before finding 1400m a shade too far when unplaced in the Golden Rose.

Nechita was freshened by trainer John Thompson and whisked to Melbourne for the prestigious Gr 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes - a highly regarded stallion making race, but equally valuable to a future broodmare. Experienced jockey Christian Reith who rode Nechita in all four starts has no doubt she’s the best horse he’s ridden.

She made a staggering $1.55 million at the Gold Coast Patinack dispersal, knocked down to Coolmore who immediately announced she would be going straight to stud in Ireland. She’ll need to do something spectacular if she’s going to vindicate her purchase price. Harpo Marx who was her first foal, has so far accumulated $153,000 while two Galileo fillies have had only one start each for no result.

“Our original intention was to offer Coolmore 100,000 guineas for Harpo Marx before the sale but we got cold feet after the first veterinary inspection,” said Scott. “The Coolmore vet diagnosed what they call a lazy throat. This sometimes signals the possibility of a restricted airflow.

“We got Hubie de Burgh to organise an independent vet who disagreed with the first assessment. The decision was made to take the punt and throw in a bid or two at the Tatt’s Sale. We were pretty chuffed to snare him for 60,000 guineas.

“Hubie, who has been instrumental in sending dozens of horses to this country is adamant the European horses should be given a soft initial campaign. He stresses that their best form will come at the following preparation. That certainly applies to Harpo Marx.”

The son of Galileo had only six starts for Aidan O’Brien which included a second in a Leopardstown 3YO maiden, and a Tipperary maiden win. The winner of the Leopardstown event was none other than Il Paradiso who was destined to run third in the Melbourne Cup just six months later. At his last run for O’Brien Harpo Marx was way out of his grade in the Gr 1 Goodwood Cup, in which he started at cricket score odds and finished 29 lengths from the winner.