Hartnel Hunts 3rd Group 1 in Australia
Extra distance and a change in tactics will be behind Hartnell’s bid to avenge his last start defeat and collect a third G1 title in Sunday’s Underwood Stakes at Caulfield.
Hartnell had to settle for second place behind the high-class runner Humidor over the 1600m of the G1 Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington two weeks ago after being forced to race hard in the early stages.
Trainer James Cummings has no argument that the best horse on the day won that race, but he is expecting a fitter and better-suited Hartnell to make amends at Caulfield.
“I was delighted to see him pull up quite well from what was a tough run in the Makybe Diva Stakes,” Cummings said.
“He had to burn the candle at both ends that day and he was still able to hold off the challenges and battle on bravely for second.”
“He steps out to the 1800m here in the Underwood and he’ll be better suited at that trip in his third-up run.”
Hartnell did all the chasing in the Flemington race, a situation the Godolphin team is hoping jockey Kerrin McEvoy can avoid this week.
“We’d love to ride him with a little bit of cover this time, be a little more neutral from the barriers,” Cummings said.
“I think he’s really ready to attack the line and he showed sharpness in a gallop at Caulfield on Tuesday morning.
“He’s in great form, he’s well within himself, ticking over beautifully and doing everything we need him to do and hopefully on Sunday he can pick up a G1 for us.”
If he does, it will be added to the G1 titles he won in the BMW at Rosehill in 2015 in his first Australian preparation, in the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington last year.
Since leaving the UK, Hartnell has also been placed in six other G1 races and has won three at G2 level and another at G3, establishing a record that had him ranked as highly as fifth in official world rankings.
His opposition on Sunday is likely to include the former French galloper Gailo Chop, who is a G1 winner in Australia and Bonneval, the G1 New Zealand Oaks and G1 ATC Oaks winner.
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