The 2016 Melbourne Cup winner will be declared on Tuesday afternoon and jockey James McDonald it will be Hartnell that salutes in the Group 1 event at Flemington.
Hartnell stamped himself as Melbourne Cup favourite with a string of impressive performances in the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m), Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) and Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) before he lost no admirers when second behind Winx in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m).
McDonald has been delighted with the Melbourne Cup lead-up form of Hartnell and he believes that the Authorized gelding will be very tough to beat if he is able to settle in the early stages of ‘the race that stops a nation’.
“He is a horse that jumps well and he will position very good in a race like this,” McDonald said.
“With the tempo that will be in the race I like that it will give him a good opportunity to slot in somewhere and if he relaxes he will be tough to beat.
“I thought that he was one of the worst horses to get around Moonee Valley that I have ever ridden.
“He never got around the bend and I thought he was going to run fourth, but he boxed on to run second.
“I know Winx was off and gone, but I still thought that his run had a bit of merit to it.
“Relaxing is going to be the massive key for this horses winning chances.
“As long as he relaxes through the mid stages he is going to be hard to beat.
“The big track is the key to his chances.”
Hartnell won over 3200 metres in the United Kingdom in the 2014 edition of the Listed Queen’s Vase (3219m) at Royal Ascot, but he has failed to fire in his two starts over the trip in Australia in both the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) and the Melbourne Cup last year.
McDonald said that Hartnell had plenty of excuses in the Melbourne Cup last year and he is confident that the Melbourne Cup favourite is going much better than he was 12 months ago.
“It was a complete waste of time that was,” McDonald said.
“He missed the kick, got back, was second last the whole way and the race was dominated by on-pace runners.
“He never figured and his form suggested that he was going a lot worse than he is this year.
“As long as he brings his form he will run well.”
Hartnell is currently available at 2016 Melbourne Cup odds of $5 with Ladbrokes and he remains a clear favourite from Oceanographer ($8), Jameka ($8.50) and Bondi Beach ($9.50).