John O’Shea may have ruled out an Australian Cup 2015 bid with Chipping Norton Stakes winner Contributer but the second placed stablemate in last weekend’s Sydney major, Hartnell, could still be Flemington bound on Super Saturday.
On Saturday Godolphin ran the quinella in the $500,000 Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Warwick Farm with last start Apollo Stakes winner Contributer going back-to-back with a win over fellow import Hartnell.
The stable won’t be persuaded to target the $1 million Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 14 with High Chaparral five-year-old Contributer who has won three of his four starts since debuting down under on Caulfield Cup Day last spring.
However there is a chance Chipping Norton Stakes runner-up Hartnell will head to Victoria for a shot at the weight-for-age classic after his impressive Australian debut in Sydney.
A winner of five of his 14 starts to date, the Authorzied gelding ran seventh to Kingston Hill in the Group 1 St Leger Stakes (2900m) at Doncaster last September before being sent down under to trainer with O’Shea.
He had two Warwick Farm trials this year before his Chipping Norton Stakes run and showed great form to cross just a half a length off his new stablemate in the showdown after jumping from an outside barrier 14 of 15 draw.
It was enough to get O’Shea talking Australian Cup chatter, despite original plans to run in the $150,000 Group 3 Sky High Stakes (1900m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 14 staying in Sydney for a shot at the $1.5 million Group The BMW (2400m) at Royal Randwick a fortnight later.
“Initially we were always going to run in the Sky High at set weights and penalties and then into the BMW and that’s probably still going to be the case,” O’Shea told Correct Weight on Sunday.
“But after watching his run yesterday – we still have him in the Australian Cup – and he would be better suited on the bigger track of Flemington.
“I’m actually just on the way out to the farm to have a look at him to see how he’s pulled up and that’ll probably make my mind up one way or another.”
Current all-in Australian Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au are led by German import and Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist at $4 despite the Kris Lees-trained champ getting rolled as the favourite first-up in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on the weekend.
Hartnell then has moved up the early Australian Cup betting markets and is tracking as the $7 second pick to win, a deserving price according to O’Shea who was very happy with the horse’s Chipping Norton run.
“I thought if he’d have drawn a gate yesterday he would have tested Contributer and that was before the race,” he said.
“When he drew 14, the intent was to ride him back where we rode him, which I thought it would rule out any chance of winning.
“But he’s a very, very talented horse and, more importantly, since he’s been in Australia he’s just thrived. So the transition to our racing and training has not been an issue for him.”
Contributer meanwhile has eased out to $9 in the Australian Cup markets with O’Shea saying he was better suited for a run in the $500,000 Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill on March 21.
“Going to the Ranvet in three weeks will suit him a little bit better, just to keep his runs spaced,” he said.
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