Hartnell Ready for Epsom

Hartnell Ready for Epsom

Hartnell Ready for Epsom

by Mike Hedge at Godolphin

A handy weight and some encouraging work on the training track has influenced trainer James Cummings to give Hartnell his chance in Saturday’s G1 Epsom Handicap at Randwick in which he is joined by stablemate Duca Valentinois.

Hartnell is one of Godolphin’s true globetrotters, and has been a superb flagbearer for both the stable and his sire, Derby winner Authorized, for the past five years.

Foaled at Rutland Stud, on the outskirts of Newmarket, Hartnell began his racing career with Mark Johnston, who had also trained his dam, Debonnaire.

Having broken his maiden by four lengths in the September of his juvenile year, Hartnell recorded two further wide-margin wins at two, including a 10-length demolition of the field in the Zetland Stakes on Newmarket’s Rowley Mile course. He rounded off his campaign with a creditable third in the G1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud.

Hartnell reappeared at three in the Derby Trial at Epsom, but the undulating track wasn’t to his liking and he finished fifth. Less than a month later, and another Derby Trial (this time at Lingfield), he gave a far better account of himself, finishing second. This was enough for his trainer to book his place at Royal Ascot where he would line up in the Queen’s Vase. Relishing the extra distance, Hartnell won far more easily than the neck margin would suggest and added a well-deserved first Stakes win to his record.

In February 2018, Hartnell recorded perhaps his most remarkable G1 win, flying home to land the seven-furlong C F Orr Stakes, no mean feat for a horse who won his first Stakes race over two miles at Ascot.

Hartnell (Hugh Bowman) is the best-performed member of the local stable and the eight-year-old has been doing battle at the top level with good results for the past four seasons.

While he would normally have been weighted out of races like the Epsom, he has a relatively comfortable 57kg (9 stone) to carry on Saturday.

The conditions led to the Epsom being selected ahead of the G2 Hill Stakes on the same program.

“He was also entered for the Hill Stakes, but we thought he was nicely weighted here,” Cummings said.

“We’re also happier to keep him to the mile. It looks a better option than the 2000m.”

“He’s been sharp in his work, very strong.”

“Third-up at this trip he’s going to be right at the peak of his fitness and it would be great to see him win another good race.”

“Both our horses are in great shape.”

While Hartnell has been competing well at G1 level, Duca Valentinois (Glyn Schofield) comes to the Epsom after two runs back in lesser races.

A G3 winner in Queensland before going for a spell, Duca Valentinois had his comeback spoiled by interference and was then a handy fourth in a G3 race at his latest outing.

“He got smashed sideways at his first run back,” Cummings said.

“Second up he showed more of the willingness he’s been displaying in his work this time in.”

In a quality Epsom field, the hardest to beat shapes as the progressive four-year-old Pierata.