Hartnell looks ready for a triumphant Caulfield return
THE last time James McDonald donned the Royal Blue and was legged aboard Hartnell two Melbourne Cups ago when they finished third to Almandin.
Less than two weeks before that, the Hartnell/McDonald pair were eight lenghts behind Winx in her first of three Cox Plate wins.
Before that of course, Hartnell and McDonald were a hot duo in racing. Not quite Bowman and Winx stature, but with consecutive wins in the Chelmsford, Hill then Turnbull Stakes by a combined margin of over 16-len, Winx had a challenger.
Or so it seemed.
Fast forward to tomorrow and McDonald takes over from the Everest-committed Hugh Bowman who steered the Toorak topweight to something of a surprise win in the Group 1 ATC Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Royal Randwick.
Hartnell’s victory was a triumph for trainer James Cummings who has been able to sharpen the now eight-year-olds focus by training him as a 1400m/miler, and more importantly, keeping his safe distance away from Winx.
“It was a careful choice that we made to run in this rather than the Caulfield Stakes, but he’s responded so well to being kept to
shorter trips that I had go with our gut feeling,” Cummings said.
“Staying at 1600m for now looks perfect leading up to a race like the Group 1 Cantala Stakes at Flemington later in the carnival.
“We’ve been delighted with the way he’s come through that effort and we’ll proceed to the Toorak Handicap now, despite him having to carry the penalty for winning the Epsom,”
“He’s back up to 59kg, but I think that against those horses he’s very capable of being competitive with them at that weight.
“He’ll enjoy getting back to Caulfield where he’s still got quite a good record,” he added.
Hartnell’s record at Caulfield is six starts for two wins, two seconds and a third.
One of Hartnell’s main rivals in tomorrow’s Group 1 MRC Toorak Handicap (1600m) comes from within the Godolphin string in Jungle Cat.
The Irish-bred entire made it back-to-back dual hemisphere Group 1s when he showed his fighting qualities in the Rupert Clarke at Caulfield, first-up from win on Dubai World Cup night in the Al Quoz Sprint.
Jungle Cat has raced 32 times but makes his mile debut at Group 1 level this weekend.
“I thought the way he ran last time that 1600m is going to suit him even better,” trainer Charlie Appleby said.
“James Doyle is back to take the ride again which a big positive. They know each other well.”
“He’ll enjoy getting back to Caulfield where he’s still got quite a good record.” JAMES CUMMINGS
Trainer James Cummings has taken care plotting Hartnell’s spring campaign.