Jockey James McDonald is confident that Hartnell has the tools to deliver Winx her first defeat of the year when the pair line up for Saturday’s featured 2016 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley Racecourse.
Hartnell has been a strong performer for Godolphin throughout his entire Australian tenure since arriving in the autumn of 2015, but has undoubtedly returned to racing in career-best form to date, this time in.
Running second to Winx in the Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) first-up on August 20th, the Authorized gelding has since dominated each of the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m), Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) and Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m); winning the three races by a combined seventeen lengths.
McDonald was understandably thrilled with the feel offered up by Hartnell when he won the Turnbull Stakes by close to four lengths last time out on October 2nd, and believes the horse is in peak condition for his showdown with Winx in the Cox Plate 2016.
“Looking at the field, it’s pretty exciting and it’s going to be a good race come Saturday,” McDonald said at Breakfast With The Best on Tuesday.
“It was good. Obviously the team always thought he was going to improve off his Sydney run and going into the Turnbull we only needed a little bit of luck. He got that and he was devastating.
“He’s going much better than he was previously. John’s got him ticking along beautifully, he’s a lovely and relaxed horse now, and going through the motions beautifully.”
Hartnell began his racing career under the care of notable British trainer Mark Johnston in 2013 and immediately announced himself to the Australian racing community when debuting last autumn for a close second to stable mate Contributer in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m).
Subsequently winning each of the Group 3 Sky High Stakes (2000m) and Group 1 The BMW (2400m) before ending his first campaign fourth in the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m), Hartnell returned last spring for four start, highlighted by a credible fifth in the Cox Plate.
Hartnell contested only one start during the Autumn Carnival this year and was returned to the paddock with a minor hock injury after placing fifth in the Chipping Norton Stakes.
Hartnell remains firm on the second line of 2016 Cox Plate betting at a quote of $3.40 with Ladbrokes Australia.