Hartnell’s second to champion mare Winx in the Cox Plate last Saturday is a great form line in the lead up to the Group 1 $6m Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 1 according to trainer John O’Shea.
O’Shea said that Hartnell wasn’t that comfortable on the tricky Moonee Valley track and was happy with the way Godolphin owned six year old finished the race off even though he was eight lengths behind Chris Waller’s mighty mare Winx in the weight for age championship, the Group 1 $3m Cox Plate (2040m).
“I thought he was good as it’s going to be a very high-rating Cox Plate and the best part of his race was in the last 100 metres,” O’Shea told racing.com.
“He struggles to quicken on a bend and that’s where she really pours it on.
“James (McDonald) said after the race that while he was trying to balance our horse around the bend, Hughie Bowman on Winx was quickening and that’s where she really had us.
“Historically, that run matches up with performances like Fiorente and a lot of Melbourne Cup horses have run significantly worse than him but still been very competitive at Flemington.”
Hartnell will be suited heading back to Flemington on the first Tuesday in November after he showed his liking for the big open spaces two starts back when a three and a quarter lengths winner over Caulfield Cup winner Jameka in the Group 1 $500,000 Yellowglen Turnbull Stakes (2000m) on October 2.
“But I said earlier this spring that I think our best chance to win a major this spring will come in the Melbourne Cup and I didn’t see anything there on Saturday for me to change my mind,” O’Shea said.
Hartnell remains at the top of the Melbourne Cup market order at $4.60 with Ladbrokes.com.au ahead of the Ciaron Maher trained Jameka at $7.
The Aidan O’Brien trained Irish stayer Bondi Beach is next in the betting at $10 while the in-form Bart Cummings winner Almandin is at $12.
Under the conditions of the Melbourne Cup the top weight at final acceptance time has to carry 57kg which means the weights will have to be raised 1kg if English stayer Big Orange ($17) and or German import Our Ivanhowe ($31) are among the final acceptances on Saturday with both stayers having been handicapped with 56kg.
Hartnell was allocated 55kg and at this stage looks like carrying 56kg in the ‘Race That Stops A Nation’ after the weights are raised 1kg.
Early Melbourne Cup market order at Ladbrokes.com.au: $4.60 Hartnell, $7 Jameka, $10 Bondi Beach, $12 Almandin, $13 Heartbreak City, $15 Scottish, $17 Big Orange, Exospheric, Wicklow Brave, $19 Almoonqith, $21 Curren Mirotic, Grand Marshall, $26 Oceanographer, Qewy, Who Shot Thebarman, $31 Grey Lion, Our Ivanhowe, $34 Real Love, Secret Number, $41 Beautiful Romance, Gallante, $51 or more the rest.