Fletcher proud as punch

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk

Royal Pride became his sire Royal Aspirations’ first winner when he came storming home to take out the IRT. Your Horse. Our Passion. Trot (2600m) at Addington Raceway on Thursday night, and there was no one prouder than Fred Fletcher.

The Canterbury horseman bred, owns, and trains the three-year-old colt and he said it was a delight to get the first win for Royal Aspirations, a horse he trained to 18 victories, including the Gr.1 2YO Ruby (1609m).

In his first standing start, Royal Pride came away from the tapes in a gallop and took a little while to settle for driver Sam Thornley.

The pair were able to tack back on to the main bunch where they remained at the rear of the field for the majority of the race.

Perennial bridesmaid Queen Of Strathfield looked to have the race won halfway down the straight, however, Royal Pride showed a blistering turn of foot to run her down and claim a head victory.

Fletcher was thrilled with the win and said the colt is starting to realise his potential.

“It was very good, the only thing was I expected him to trot away,” Fletcher said. “He just got a bit of a fright when one galloped and that put him off his game. He is quite a sensible horse.

“That was his first standing start. He went terrific afterwards and ran home pretty quick.

“He has been running out of the gate in 26 quarters in those mobiles and has been running home in 57. They were a bit short for him and now he is maturing to where we want him. He is a pretty nice animal.”

Fletcher was also pleased with stablemate Royal Del’s third-placing and he believes the son of Royal Aspirations also has a bright future.

“Royal Del is a pretty nice horse too,” Fletcher said. “He had a few problems early on. We took him to trials and he was winning and doing things absolutely perfectly and all of a sudden he would break coming out of the gate.

“So I turned him out and gelded him, then brought him back and he went well at the trials at Ashburton the other day. He went well last night, he was probably a run short.

“I thought coming around the last corner her would just about win, but I always thought the other one (Royal Pride) was an ounce quicker.”

With his eye-catching win Royal Pride has booked himself a return trip to Addington Raceway for New Zealand Cup Day, while a more scenic assignment is in the offing for Royal Del.

“At this stage, I am looking at Cup Day for Royal Pride, there is a 2600m standing start, and we might head to Kaikoura with Royal Del.”

Both three-year-olds are by Royal Aspirations, a stallion Fletcher has a huge rap on.

Early on in his racing career Fletcher thought the son of Monarchy had the potential to be the best square-gaiter New Zealand had seen. High praise from a man who has trained a number of top-line trotters, including the incomparable Sundon.

“If he hadn’t had got an injury as a late two-year-old I think he could have been the best trotter New Zealand has had,” Fletcher said.

“He was never right but he still held five New Zealand records at one stage. He couldn’t go early because of his problem and he was always so gutsy, he tried so hard.”

While Fletcher was impressed with Royal Aspirations’ athleticism, it was his mental aptitude that really captured Fletcher’s admiration.

“I am a great heart man and he has got a great heart,” he said.

“He could stay all day because of his heart and could carry speed for a long way, but we never saw the best of him.”

A colonial-bred stallion, Royal Aspirations hasn’t served large books in his first four seasons at stud, but he has been well-patronised by Fletcher’s mares and he is over the moon with his progeny.

“It’s hard to make it as a New Zealand stallion when they have got all of these imported stallions and breeders are willing to pay the $12,000 and $14,000 service fees,” Fletcher said.

“I only bred four the first year with him and we have had two to race and another one qualified, and the other one is about a month away from qualifying. So the whole four of them are going to be racehorses.

“I have got five two-year-olds and they are very nice horses. I think he is on his way but it will take the public a while to wake up.”

Royal Aspirations stands at Phoebe Stud for a fee of $1,500+GST.

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