Five times Group 1 winner Black Heart Bart could have a fitness edge on race favourite Hartnell when they clash in the Group 1 $750,000 PFD Food Services Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on Saturday.
The James Cummings trained Hartnell hasn’t raced for a month since winning first up in the Group 2 $200,000 P.B. Lawrence Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield but has been installed the $1.80 favourite at Ladbrokes.com.au for the Makybe Diva Stakes.
$6 second favourite Black Heart Hart couldn’t match it with Hartnell in the P.B. Lawrence Stakes when three and a quarter lengths third but the Darren Weir trained seven year old has had a run since for a second to Vega Magic in the Group 1 $1m New Zealand Bloodstock Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on September 2.
Cummings is happy with the progress of Hartnell since his P.B. Lawrence Stakes win but the head Godolphin trainer admits a month in between runs could be his only flaw in the Makybe Diva Stakes.
“This race is that little bit stronger than what he faced first-up and some of those horses will have an extra run under their belts. He might be a little vulnerable from that perspective,” Cummings told the Herald Sun.
Brushing that aside, Cummings is still very keen on Hartnell’s chances in the 1600m weight for age contest going on the way he toyed with his opposition in the P.B. Lawrence Stakes.
“He looked like he absorbed that first-up run even better than his preliminary training. It’s a really good sign,” Cummings said.
“Not only were we very impressed by his return in the PB Lawrence, where he was able to win very comfortably over 1400m, but we’ve been very pleased with him in between runs.
“We’re very excited about his prospects on the weekend.”
Hartnell had a solid hit out on the Flemington course proper on Tuesday morning and Godolphin’s Melbourne representative David Charles said everything went to plan.
“He has done very very well. We took the opportunity to go on the course proper this morning (Tuesday) and he worked over 1200m and we are extremely happy with him. He worked home very strongly.”
“It is a serious race on Saturday and it is a month in between runs so James thought the opportunity to go on the course proper would really benefit his fitness. He is ready to go on Saturday.”
Kerrin McEvoy will be having his first race ride on Hartnell who has drawn barrier eight in the twelve horse Makybe Diva Stakes field while regular rider Brad Rawiller will again partner Black Heart Bart who will jump from gate seven.
As well as Black Heart Bart, trainer Darren Weir will also saddle up French import Gailo Chop (Mark Zahra, barrier 1) and Australian Cup winner Humidor (Damian Lane, 10) in the Makybe Diva Stakes.
Gailo Chop was back in the winner’s stall for the first time since leading all of the way in the 2015 Group 1 $1m Longines Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington with a last start win in the Listed $100,000 Penny Edition Stakes (1400m) at Morphettville Parks on September 2.
Humidor was the winner of the Group 1 $1.5m Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington during the 2017 Melbourne Autumn Carnival and has followed the same program as his stablemate Black Heart Bart with a sixth in the P.B. Lawrence Stakes followed by a eighth in the Memsie Stakes.