A tribute to Hartforth

Hartforth......a gallant performer is retired

The gallant Hartforth

It was fitting that Hartforth's 50th and final race of his career should be at Ayr racecourse (2nd January 2018), a venue where he has run so many fine races for trainer Donald Whillans and his owners The Brave Lads. His form figures at the West of Scotland venue in handicap hurdles read 6231P167 and span a period of over 4 years.

My story begins during the Spring of 2013 when Donald approached myself and several friends of the stable.....'I've got a horse for you'!
Yorkshire handler James Bethell was looking to pass on a 5 year old chestnut gelding who had run on the flat and over hurdles......twenty four times.......without winning......darker than a black cat in a coal cellar at midnight.
Yet, Callum had ridden Hartforth - for it was he - in a handicap hurdle a year earlier, and remembered how well he jumped. This prompted Donald to drive down to Middleham to strike a deal and return home with a small-ish chestnut gelding with a white face and three white socks. And an attitude to boot!

During that summer, Hartforth was given a couple of prep races on the flat without showing much, yet after a short break he began to impress The Whillans Boys (Garry & Callum) with his work each morning on the gallops. And so to his first run over hurdles at Hexham in October 2013 off a BHA rating of 83 (he would reach 120 at his peak) in a 3 mile handicap hurdle - travelled well and came though the pack to win in fine style for Callum.
Did this give us a glimpse of what was to come........well, not really!

However, that season 2013-14 was a tremendous one for Hartforth, his BHA rating climbed through a series of a further six races to a BHA rating of 115 winning another 2 races in the process. And his jumping was fantastic, his morning work was always tackled with enthusiasm but just don't school him over hurdles. Not interested....
The following three seasons saw Hartforth take his owners - and especially this adoring one - to the best of the tracks on the Northern circuit : Ayr, Carlisle, Musselburgh, contesting valuable events for the grade. Remember the day that fellow jockey Joe Colliver helped Callum back in the saddle at Musselburgh, only for Hartforth to go on and win the race!

But he reserved his best for Ayr most definitely, and his last victory was fittingly at that venue in November 2016, at the very nice odds of 50-1.

What does the future hold for 'Hart'?
In a stable yard he can be a 'character' - don't ever turn your back on him at feeding time - but the stable staff know his quirks and love him to bits.
Dodlands team member Sarah Brown's family have kept horses for decades, with Sarah herself dabbling in British Equestrian events. So she jumped at the chance to take on the chestnut for a couple of months to see if he takes to the new discipline.

What memories to leave behind for his loyal fan base of owners ....George and Donald Miller, Paul Douglas, Robert Scott, James Purdie, Stuart Allan, and yours truly.
My favourite horse....ever!
Five wins, placed a further eight times, prize money of over £30k with a very respectable final rating of 115 for Dodlands Steading, retired aged 10 with head held high and in one piece.

How can we forget famous commentary like this
.....the game chestnut with the white face , who goes by the name of HARTFORTH is pulling out more and HARTFORTH gamely goes on to win........

Thank you so much Donald, Garry, Callum and stable staff past and present. What a thrilling time we've had.

And a final word from Hartforth himself - 'Looking forward to my retirement and will miss all my friends at Dodlands but hopefully some will visit me - don't forget the polos and carrots though if you do pop down!'


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