Jockey Brenton Avdulla is hoping to finish closer than usual to Winx when he partners Hartnell in the Group 1 $600,000 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on Saturday.
Avdulla replaces the inured James Doyle on the Godolphin owned, John O’Shea trained Hartnell who chased home Winx when a two and three quarter lengths second in the Group 2 $250,000 The Star Apollo Stakes (1400m) at postponed Randwick meeting on February 13.
English jockey James Doyle was in the saddle on that occasion but is on the sidelines for several weeks because of a broken bone in his right hand he suffered when his mount Pearls fell in the following race, the Group 3 $150,000 Robrick Lodge Triscay Stakes (1200m).
Avdulla was aboard the Chris Waller trained Libran, stablemate of Winx, when he finished ten lengths behind her in the Apollo Stakes and the premiership leading jockey is hoping to get closer to the super star race horse in the Chipping Norton Stakes.
“Usually I’m on one of [Chris] Waller’s stayers that are out the back and can’t keep up. They are just getting further and further away from me,” Avdulla told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“I will be a bit closer to her this time, how close I don’t know, but I will be in the action.
“Hartnell is obviously the second-best middle-distance horse in the country behind Winx. He is a superstar in his own right. He is a dual group 1 winner.
“But he hasn’t beaten her in five meetings and ran three seconds. If it wasn’t for her, he would have another couple of group 1s. He is a serious horse. It is an honour to be trusted with the ride on him by Godolphin.
“I will be riding him to his best advantage, not trying to just beat her. If we do that, he will be finding the line. I probably need to hope she has a bad day, which she has not had for a long time.”
Winx will be chasing her fifteenth straight success and her tenth Group 1 win in the Chipping Norton Stakes and will be facing a similar field that she easily beat when resuming for the 2017 Sydney Autumn Carnival in the Apollo Stakes.
Avdulla has been up close and personal to Winx in the past and thought he had the better of her on Happy Clapper in the 2016 Group 1 $3m The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Randwick but as usual Winx strolled past at the 200m and Avdulla and Happy Clapper had to settle for the runner’s up cheque.
“I thought I was home until I saw her flash out the pack at the furlong and knew I was in trouble,” Avdulla said.
“We have seen it plenty of times. There is so much to like about her.
“I just like the way she jumps, she relaxes, she drops her head and when [Hugh] Bowman gives her a shake she goes into overdrive.
“She has that sustained speed for as long as he wants, it seems. She is just a superstar.”
Hartnell is one of thirteen horses nominated for the Chipping Norton Stakes with Winx being one of seven from the Waller stable.
The early market order for the Chipping Norton Stakes at Ladbrokes.com.au has Winx as the $1.10 favourite with Hartnell the closest to her in the betting at $8.
Early market order for the Chipping Norton Stakes at Ladbrokes.com.au: $1.10 Winxx, $8 Hartnell, $16 Endless Drama, $31 He’s Our Rokkii, $51 Libran, Tavago, $81 Magic Hurricane, $101 Lasqueti Spirit, Preferment, $201 Ambience, Sacred Master, Who Shot Thebarman, $301 Grand Marshal.