It takes a pretty special moment to move a hardened racing man like Reg Fleming.
Fleming, the senior foreman at Godolphin’s Carbine Lodge at Flemington, is a man of few words, a trait learned from his long-time boss Bart Cummings.
Ask Fleming about his favourite horses and a different side of the 55-year old emerges, for he is incredibly proud of the achievements of the star thoroughbreds that have come under his care.
Few of those horses move Fleming to tears. But when Godolphin posted a brief social media clip of racing and bloodstock manager Jason Walsh telling Fleming that he was to be the lifetime guardian of four-time Group 1 winner Hartnell, his emotions flowed.
“It was a great moment, great news,” said Fleming. “He arrived at Godolphin in Australia the same year that I came across and started, so I’ve known him for a while. Now he’s my responsibility.”
Hartnell arrived in Australia late in 2014 as a young Melbourne Cup prospect for Godolphin.
He’d won the Listed Queen’s Vase over 3200m at Royal Ascot and the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket as a three-year-old, but proved to be a far more versatile horse during his 45 start career in Australia, winning Group 1 races from 1400m to 2400m and running third in the 2016 Melbourne Cup.
Fleming has worked with countless champions during his career at Flemington. Saintly, So You Think and Viewed stand out, but he says Hartnell is unique.
“He’s pretty straightforward. A very kind horse, willing to work and do whatever you want. He’s a gentleman,” said Fleming. “Best of all he had something that you can’t see – ability. That’s what made him the horse he was on the track.”
Retired after a typically brave third in the Group 1 Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes on Seppelt Wines Stakes Day, Hartnell will now become part of Fleming’s team of champion show horses – a passion project that he has seen through for a number of former star gallopers that he has worked with.
"I’ve had Sirmione (Australian Cup winner) and Precedence and a few others as well. I take them on and put them with great riders and we look after them for the rest of their lives," said Reg Fleming.