The Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) field and barrier draw was released this morning (Wednesday) with 16 talented middle-distance runners accepting for the $1 feature race, including the likes of Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist, three-time Group One winner Happy Trails, and last-start winner Mourinho.
However one name that was surprising absent from the field was Hartnell, the impressive British import that ran second in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) on February 28.
The John O’Shea-trained gelding did accept for the Group 3 Sky High Stakes (2000m), running in Sydney on the same day, but he may not end up running in the race either.
“He may not run in Sydney either,” O’Shea told TVN.
“I’m being a bit conservative with him. He might go to the Ranvet or he might even go straight to the BMW.
“The more I look at his form all his runs are well spaced and hence the good performance we saw from him first up in the Chipping Norton.
“I had a chat to Henry (Plumptre, Godolphin’s Australian manager) after he worked and there were a few little things that were telling me that he does need to be fresh.”
The Godolphin-owned and breed gelding enjoyed his share of success in Britain, winning five starts including the Listed Queen’s Vase over two miles at Royal Ascot last June.
Hartnell travelled to Australia in January, getting his first start in the Chipping Norton Stakes at Warwick Farm. The gelding was second last in the field up until 600m before steering between runners rounding the home turn and getting a split at the 200m mark. He went to third on passing the 100m then battled gamely to finish half a length off winner Contributer.
His UK form and recent track work led O’Shea to determine the gelding does not need to be fresh and he can be a little more picky with where and when to race him.
“I’m still learning about the horse,” he said.
“I think he’s a pretty talented horse, I just want to make sure of everything going forward as there’s plenty of money available during the Sydney (Autumn Racing Carnival).”
Hartnell is one of 10 horses in the 2015 Sky High Stakes, set to jump from barrier nine with James McDonald.
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