Parade ring eye-catcher Harmony Rose targeting Vinery Stud Stakes success
Darby’s last-minute yearling purchase set to pay off with possible Group 1 victory at Rosehill
Leading Vinery Stud Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) contender Harmony Rose had not even come onto syndicator Darby Racing’s radar when she was being led around and moments away from going under the hammer at the 2019 Magic Millions National Yearling Sale.
By a non-commercial stallion in Glass Harmonium (Verglas), who covered just 30 mares the year Harmony Rose was conceived, the Mark Newnham-trained three-year-old is the pre-post favourite to take out the fillies Group 1 feature at Rosehill on Saturday.
“She was bought at the June Magics, which is a sale we target to buy value. We have an idea of trying to pick up three or four (yearlings) for under $30,000. We have a lot of clients who don’t want to spend a lot of money to get in horses and we’ve had a lot of success in that range as well,” Darby Racing’s Scott Darby recalled yesterday.
“We don’t look at every horse at the sales and we just happened to be at the parade ring when she was parading and she caught our eye. We were frantically running around trying to get x-rays done and the rest is history.
“My offsider, Mark Holland, and I were in awe of the way she was parading, the athleticism, everything about her and we thought she’d get over a bit of ground. We looked at the pedigree page and we were willing to forgive that because of the price we thought we might get her for.
“She looked better than the price tag, that’s for sure.”
She was knocked down to Darby Racing for just $25,000 from the Alexia Fraser Bloodstock draft and, since then, she has gone on to win three of her five starts and last time out she finished a gallant third in the Randwick Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) behind Lion’s Roar (Contributer) and Mo’unga (Savabeel).
With the Vinery Stud Stakes meeting pushed back by seven days owing to the postponement of the Golden Slipper meeting, Newnham elected to give Harmony Rose a barrier trial at Randwick last Friday over 1200 metres.
“She is an exciting filly who has always shown us plenty of ability and I think she will really excel once she gets the longer trips, particularly back in fillies’ grade and she’s spot on for Saturday,” Darby said.
“In the words of Josh Parr, he said, ‘looking at the way she ran in her last start, she could really dominate the fillies’ side of things over those journeys’, so hopefully he is right.”
The Australian Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) at Randwick in a fortnight’s time is a likely option for the lightly raced filly.
“Very early on Mark Newnham was pretty taken with her and I remember leading into her first run, there was an air of confidence, which surprised me, because I thought she might be better over further just looking at her,” he said.
“She won well at Kembla Grange (on October 24 last year) and Mark’s been pretty bullish about her from the word go.
“He was already talking about a Nakeeta Jane-style preparation and those sorts of horses that he’s had success with.”
Darby’s Group 1 chances at Rosehill won’t rest just with Harmony Rose, with promising European import Spirit Ridge (Nathaniel) warming up for the Sydney Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) in Saturday’s H E Tancred Stakes (Gr 1, 2400m).
Also trained by Newnham, Spirit Ridge won the ATC Summer Cup (Gr 3, 2000m) and ATC January Cup (Listed, 2000m) before a freshen up for the autumn, which started with a narrow defeat in the Sky High Stakes (Gr 3, 2000m) at Rosehill on March 13.
“Mark is rapt with him and said he’s flying. He’s had a couple of setbacks here and there, but he’s such a clean-winded horse that won’t bother him,” he said.
“Weight for age is probably not going to be suited to him, but Mark still thinks he’s a really good stayer on the way up, so hopefully he can put his best foot forward.”
Darby revealed there was no surprise from connections when Spirit Ridge was run down in the final bounds by Toffee Tongue (Tavistock) in the Sky High.
“He came off a bit of a setback, so he was always going to be vulnerable there,” he said.
“He’d just missed some work, nothing major, but I know Robbie (Dolan) who does all his riding was over the moon because there was certainly some improvement to come off the back of that run.
“I was thinking about it this morning and going through the potential nominations for the Tancred and I am hoping a horse like Angel Of Truth backs up because he is a better horse chasing than setting the pace.
“He loves a dog fight and the further that race went on last time, he would have continued to fight back. With a bunny to chase, it will suit him even more.”
Well-known Irish agent Hubie De Burgh was a key player in Darby being able to buy Spirit Ridge for 100,000gns at the 2019 Tattersalls Autumn Horses-in-Training Sale.
“You pretty much have to be in that (international) market if you want to target anything from a mile and further,” he said.
“Most of the staying fields these days are made up of the internationals and we have got a great agent over there, Hubie De Burgh, and he does all the work for us over there.
“He’s got some great contacts in the stables and he’s able to find us some value as well. This fella was only 100,000gns and he’s done a terrific job in six starts for us.
“We’ve had three or four now (we bought from overseas) and they’ve all that have come out and won races.”
Meanwhile, dry-track mare Greysful Glamour (Stratum) has returned to Sydney from her unsuccessful two-start Melbourne campaign and she is slated to line up in the Emancipation Stakes (Gr 2, 1500m).
“As long as the track gets back to a four or five, she will run,” Darby said.
“She is a different animal all together on firm ground. She just does not go a yard on anything past a Soft 5. She could turn her form around very quickly and she did that last preparation switching from Melbourne up to Sydney on a dry track and won a couple of good races.
“I certainly wouldn’t let her get under your guard. She’ll be a big price and if it’s a dry track, she will give them something to chase.”
Greysful Glamour, who is also trained by Newnham, finished well back in the Tressady Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m) and the All-Star Mile (1600m) when striking a deteriorating track at Moonee Valley.
“If it wasn’t for the ($5 million) prize-money on offer, we would have withdrawn her from the All-Star Mile,” Darby added.
“She picked up $50,000 just for going around, but she would not have run on that if it had been a normal sort of race.”
While Darby is confident about his company’s prospects at Rosehill this weekend, Every Rose (Choisir) left him scratching his head after a below par performance in the Birthday Card (Gr 3, 1200m) last Saturday.
The three-year-old filly, a noted on-pacer, settled back in the field and eventually ran eighth, beaten four and three-quarter lengths by Seasons (Sebring).
Darby said: “She was one Mark was really confident about and when Mark is confident he is usually right on the mark and he really thought she was a great winning chance.
“The moment she didn’t put herself in the race you knew we were in a lot of trouble, so we are not quite sure. She seems to have pulled up well.”