Godolphin stayer Hartnell made the first public appearance of his 2015 Melbourne Cup campaign with a strong performance in a barrier trial at Royal Randwick this morning.
Hartnell was included in the acceptances for the third barrier trial of the morning over 850 metres and he was settled in the second half of the field by jockey James McDonald, while Vashka took up the running from Hooked.
Vashka kicked away from Hooked at the top of the straight and he ran away from his rivals to record an impressive barrier trial win, but it was Hartnell who caught the eye of onlookers when he savaged the line despite being kept under a heavy hold.
Hartnell made his Australian racing debut with a fast-finishing second behind Contributer in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Warwick Farm on February 28 and he claimed his maiden Australian race win in the Group 3 Sky High Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 14.
The Authorized gelding upset Japanese stayer To The World to take out the Group 1 The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 28 and he went into the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) as a clear favourite, but he tired later after leading in the early stages to finish fourth behind Grand Marshal.
Hartnell is set to return to the races in the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick on September 5 and he will likely make the trip to Melbourne for the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 4, the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 24 before he steps-up to 3200 metres for the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 3.
Vashka stamped himself as a horse to follow when he recorded five straight wins in Sydney during the summer period in 2014, but he failed to fire when he returned to the races with a tenth place finish in the Group 3 Hall Mark Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick on April 18 and he was sent straight back to the spelling paddock.
2013 Spring Champion Stakes winner Complacent continued his progress to a return to racing with a fair barrier trial and he could be close to his first race start since he finished second behind Polanksi in the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on November 2.
Hartnell is currently available at 2015 Melbourne Cup odds of $17 at Ladbrokes and he is on the second line of betting behind Japanese stayer Fame Game ($11).