Ado McGuinness and Stephen Thorne are no strangers to bagging a bargain but they may have pulled off their thriftiest purchase yet, writes Bradley West.
In just October Harry’s Bar went unsold in the public Horses In Training Sales but he is now just days away from racing in the $1.5m Saudi Arabian Airlines Riyadh Dirt Sprint.
That is thanks to the Skylark House Stables duo, who took a chance and purchased the six-year-old gelding privately for 75,000 guineas.
Their gamble, including running him in a Listed race just a week after purchase, has paid off handsomely so far with two wins from two at Dundalk.
But now, with huge money on the line, he faces his biggest test yet at the Saudi Cup meeting in Saudi Arabia this weekend.
“We always plan at these Horses In Training Sales to find the best horse that we can find for the budget we have,” Thorne said.
“There was an awful lot of luck needed in sourcing him. We knew he was a good animal from the form he had shown and his Racing Post rating figures had backed it up that he was running probably much higher than the 106 rating the English handicapper had
“We knew we were getting our hands on a real nice horse. He’s a very laidback type of animal, he’s got a temperament to die for. He’s an absolute pleasure to be around, a child could ride him.
“He’s a pleasure to train and he’s a real friendly horse. We feel travelling him now, he’ll have no issue with that either because he’s such a quiet, good natured horse.”
Harry’s Bar’s story is much longer than two races of course, having first competed for James Fanshawe back in May 2018.
But it is since heading to McGuinness’ operation that he has really caught the eye, impressing on debut before beating Joseph O’Brien’s Speak In Colours, rated five points higher, at the start of the month to show he means business.
With the likes of Roger Teal’s Oxted and Japanese contender Justin among the entries though, Harry’s hopes are understandably being downplayed.
He added: “The prize money and the occasion itself was just too tempting to resist.
“We’ve had our eye on the race for quite a while but we were unsure whether we’d get in on ratings. We weren’t among the initial invites but horses dropped out and we got accepted.
“It’s a strong field of horses. The Japanese horses are real speed balls, the chestnut horse Justin looks to be one of them and they have to be respected wherever they turn up.
“Those are the ones that we’re going to be fearing, and obviously Oxted, who is the highest rated in the field. But he has to go and prove himself on dirt as well.
“We’ve got a good bit to find on ratings but Oxted has never gone round a bend and never competed on a dirt surface whereas we’re trying to convert polytrack form into dirt form which I think is better than trying to convert turf form into dirt form.
“The run last week was very impressive to my eye. Gavin Ryan described it as a piece of work last week and he put a 110 horse away quiet easily.
“We were a week out from getting him on a plane so the last thing we wanted was to see him come under pressure and have a real fight on his hands with Joseph’s [O’Brien] horse.
“It was being used as a prep race for Saudi and, luckily enough, that’s the way it materialised. He travelled strong throughout and he quickened up well when the button was pressed. You couldn’t have asked for anymore.
“We couldn’t be any happier with him, he’s in great condition now.”
Meanwhile, stable star Saltonstall will also be in Saudi Arabia as he competes in a conditions race worth $1m – and Thorne is optimistic about his chances.
“It’s a race which was initially a strong, deep field,” he added. “We got the invite late on, only a fortnight ago.
“We’ve had a good eight-week prep with him, he had three to four weeks off after his last win in November.
“He’s actually going out there pretty much 100 per cent, we couldn’t be any happier with his prep even though we didn’t get the benefit of having a run into him.
“Horses have dropped out of it that would have been big contenders, I think the horse deserves to be in the line-up and he definitely has a legitimate chance of finishing in the money.”