“In our case, it means all the products and services for Orutan and our other mares will be provided by Victorian based businesses.”
Harding is a successful businessman in his own right having owned and operated Hardings Hardware until selling a majority stake to a Woolworths subsidiary last year. “Our philosophy is to try and treat people exactly how you would like to be treated,” he said. “We need to maintain high service levels because prices are very much the same, especially throughout the hardware industry.”
There are similar parallels between the racing and breeding industries in NSW and Victoria but prizemoney and bonuses up to $19 million in 2014-15 is a point of difference that favours the VOBIS State.
Harding bought his first horse with Deniliquin trainer Tom Loy back in the 1980s but his first fair-dinkum crack was Davington who he owned in partnership with good mates Sonny Wright, Geoff McGrath and Wally Pratt.
Davington (Hula Chief) won five times around the provincials for a young Epsom-based trainer named Mick Price and the partnership has remained rock solid for over 20 years. “It’s been a wonderful association,” Harding admitted. “And not once in all that time has he given me a reason to change.”
Price won the coveted 2013/2014 Fred Hoysted Medal and he says it’s fantastic to get results for the Hardings. “Rob copes with both loss and victory – he reckons it’s because of his Scottish personality,” Price said. “To be a long-term owner in this industry, to be able to deal with the losses, is a test of character and he has not missed a beat.”
There have been many major winners along the way including Gallica (Redoute’s Choice) who was Group 1 winner of the Thousand Guineas and SAJC Oaks in 2008-09. She has a yearling filly by More Than Ready and foaled another filly by Street Cry in August.
Chattanooga (Scenic) was a stable favourite winning 14 races between a Kilmore maiden in September 1999 and a Flemington welter in April 2005. Along the way, he won a Moe Cup plus a Sandown stakes race and he was also beaten a nose by Dash For Cash in the 2002 G1 Futurity Stakes at Caulfield.
Rob and June raced him in partnership with Geoff and Cilla McGrath and, after a well-earned retirement, he went on to carve out a successful show-jumping career with Melissa Robertson.
Another feature winner for the Canterbury couple and the Queensland based McGraths was Gotta Have Heart (Show A Heart). He grabbed a couple a of Group 3 trophies in the Victoria Hcp and Sandown Stakes.
Captious (Istadaad) won a second Moe Cup for the Hardings in 2007. They raced him with Larry and Trish Bartle and the gelding doubled up in that year’s Bendigo Cup. The Bartles were also part of the syndicate in Pre Eminence (Encosta de Lago) who won the G2 Alister Clark Stakes and G3 Norman Robinson Hcp in 2008-09.
The decision to stand a stallion was the catalyst to buy Bullbars two years ago.
Bullbars (Elusive Quality) scored a barnstorming Group 3 victory in the 2011 Colin Hayes Stakes at Flemington joining a roll-call that includes champion sires Zabeel, Starcraft and Mossman.
He’s a half-brother to multiple Group 1 winners Helmet and Epaulette and Melbourne bloodstock agent Sheamus Mills brokered the deal that saw him installed at Highview Stud in New Zealand.
“We targeted Orutan at Karaka and it’s a good match for Bullbars with VOBIS in mind,” Mills said. “She won three races and was Group 2 placed as a two year-old in the Wakefield Challenge at Trentham.
“It’s a well-credentialed family – her dam Naturo was a Group winner at Matamata and Hastings. Rob has booked Orutan to Unencumbered at Three Bridges after she foals to Bullbars.”
The Hardings have seven grandchildren and Rob is hoping they will carry on the tradition. “I’m a racing tragic and June loves it, too,” he declared. “I don’t punt. It’s the horse that hypnotizes me. I love the animal and racing them really gets the adrenaline pumping.”