Horses To Follow » Harbinger


It was difficult not to be taken with the performance that Harbinger put up in landing the Group 3 John Porter Stakes at Newbury on Saturday. Held up out the back in the early stages, he made smooth headway on the outside of his field up the home straight, took it up a furlong and a half out, and picked up impressively to go away and put distance between himself and his pursuers, winning by three lengths in the end.

There were a number of things to like about this performance. For starters, there was the willing attitude that Harbinger displayed. Despite hanging out to the centre of the track, he was always wanting to go forward, and Ryan Moore appeared to be quite happy to allow him drift as it wasn’t halting his forward momentum. There was a slight question mark over Harbinger after the poor display that he put in in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York last August, when he was sent off a warm order but came home last of the seven runners behind Monitor Closely. A tilt at the St Leger, for which he had been well backed, was scratched shortly after that, and you couldn’t have been certain if he would be able to fulfil his potential thereafter, but you knew that the run was way too bad to be true. His subsequent and final run last season, in the St Simon Stakes at Newbury, was much more pleasing. Although he could only finish third behind High Heeled, the ground was far too soft for him and he displayed a really willing attitude, running all the way to the line and getting to within six lengths of High Heeled, who is high class when she has testing conditions. Put that performance together with his run in the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, when he was most impressive in beating the useful Firebet, and it was easy to put a line through his Great Voltigeur run.

The other thing about Saturday’s race is that it looks like a solid contest. The runner-up was Manifest, who was himself well touted for the St Leger after he won a Newmarket maiden by 20 lengths, but the decision was made not to supplement him before he disappointed in a listed race behind another of Saturday’s rivals, Akmal, at Newmarket in early October. He is another horse of some potential, but Harbinger beat him on merit here. Also, the time was good, just faster than Racing Post standard time on a day when the ground was on the easy side of good.

Trainer Michael Stoute is talking about the Ormonde Stakes at Chester next for Harbinger, a race in which he should be a major player (he won his maiden at Chester’s May meeting last year, beating Changingoftheguard), but he could prove to be much better than that this season. He could progress to be a Group 1 horse, and the Coronation Cup at Epsom on Derby weekend is not an unrealistic target.

17th April 2010

© The Irish Field, 24th April 2010