Godolphin’s head Australian trainer John O’Shea will look to add Havana Cooler to his 2015 Melbourne Cup contingent alongside Hartnell with the former chasing a win and ballot exemption for Tuesday week’s classic in the Lexus Stakes on Saturday.
O’Shea chases his maiden win in the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on Tuesday November 3 with possibly two hopefuls led by his The BMW winner Hartnell.
A $21 chance in futures Melbourne Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au, who are giving away a $58,000 2015 Ford Ranger as top prize in their The Melbourne Cup Prize Draw this spring, Hartnell is allocated 55.5kg for the two mile classic.
That’s a nice drop from the 59kg under WFA he carried last Saturday for a brave fifth behind runaway winner Winx in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m).
A five-year-old son of Authorized, Hartnell is assured of a start in the capacity 24-runner Melbourne Cup field sitting seventh on the order of entry for the world’s richest handicap.
Stablemate Havana Cooler ($101) however is far from a confirmed starter well down the Melbourne Cup ballot in 35th spot with only 50kg, a weight last carried to victory by the Bart Cummings-trained Rogan Josh back in 1999.
Rogan Josh came into the race all those years ago via a win in the Mackinnon Stakes, a Group 1 now worth $1 million in prize money and run at Flemington on Victoria Derby Day the Saturday before the Melbourne Cup.
The Mackinnon offers a Melbourne Cup ballot exemption to the winner this Saturday as does the $300,000 Group 3 Lexus Stakes (2500m), which is the race O’Shea needs Havana Cooler to win to keep the Melbourne Cup on the cards.
A six-year-old son of Hurricane Run, the import was last seen running a brave third to stablemate Magic Hurricane in the Group 1 The Metropolitan (2400m) in Sydney and makes his Melbourne debut in the Lexus.
The last Melbourne Cup winner to come out of the Lexus Stakes meanwhile the Mark Kavanagh-trained Shocking who won both races in 2009 as a four-year-old.
“I thought his Metropolitan run was great and that he and (7th placed Almoonqith who backed up to win the Group 3 Geelong Cup on October 21) outside of the winner were the two best runs in the race,” O’Shea told Racing Victoria after watching a nice Tuesday morning gallop at Flemington by Havana Cooler.
“He went up the rail against the bias and he was strong through the line and he’ll love the circumference at Flemington.
“He’ll also love the ground, he really likes nice and firm ground so I think he presents with a wonderful opportunity to break into the Melbourne Cup.”
Even if he wins the Lexus and makes the cut for the Cup, O’Shea isn’t 100% confident connections will want to run him in the Melbourne Cup Carnival’s showcase race three days later.
“Whether the boss wants to run him would be another issue because he’s got a couple of other chances there but I think he’ll be very competitive on Saturday anyway,” he said.
As for Hartnell, O’Shea knows what a tough edition this year’s Melbourne Cup is shaping up to be with the likes of Japan’s Fame Game and the Caulfield Cup quinella of Mongolian Khan and Trip To Paris dominating betting.
He is pleased with how the horse ran and pulled through his latest run though and hopes for a competitive run as he takes on Cox Plate runner-up Criterion once again.
“I think you could run a slashing 10th and be contented that your horse has run well such is the strength of the race,” he said.
“We know with Hartnell on the strength of his Cox Plate run that he’s going to be competitive.”
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