Sydney-based jockey James McDonald is back from a stint riding in the UK for Godolphin and is hoping to score a massive boilover in Saturday’s 2016 Warwick Stakes defeating Winx aboard the stable’s hopeful Hartnell.
Winx has scared away all but six rivals in the weight-for-age $250,000 Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m), which headlines the racing action at Royal Randwick this weekend.
A six-time Group 1 winner including of last October’s $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m), where she is heading again this time in, Street Cry mare Winx jumps from barrier four in the Warwick Stakes.
All the pressure is on her regular rider last time in Hugh Bowman who is back in the saddle of the now five-year-old who has won her last nine starts and is a winner of four of her five first-up runs to date.
Unsurprisingly the six-time Group 1 winner is odds-on in Warwick Stakes betting at Ladbrokes.com.au for Saturday, Winx the dominant $1.35 favourite.
While Australia’s champion racehorse looks on track to take her unbeaten run into double-figures, rival hoop McDonald hasn’t ruled out his mount Hartnell just yet.
“The race is probably Winx’s for the taking but Hartnell is a quality horse as we know and he is coming along well,” McDonald told Racing Victoria.
“I’d be reluctant to take up the running and push him forward in this small field first-up.
“Tactically it looks like it will be a tricky race because of the lack of runners so we will just have to see how it unfolds.”
The bookies have the John O’Shea-trained Authorized gelding at $12 in the Warwick Stakes odds to win from barrier three, the import kicking off his Sydney Spring Racing Carnival.
Six-year-old Hartnell hasn’t raced since his last encounter with Winx racing fifth in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Randwick in late February.
He also ran fifth to her in last year’s Cox Plate, McDonald aboard for both defeats.
Between the those two runs, Hartnell was tested over the two miles of the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) where he and McDonald could only manage to cross 15th behind Prince Of Penzance.
Hartnell has had three previous starts at Randwick without a top three finish and hasn’t enjoyed a turf triumph since his Group 1 The BMW (2400m) victory at Rosehill in March of 2015.
That was the former European’s second and to date last win down under following his Group 3 Sky High Stakes (2000m) success leading up to The BMW.
Despite the time between wins, his lack of form at Randwick and a quiet eighth in a trial at the track from late July McDonald said Hartnell still ticks plenty of boxes for the Warwick Stakes.
McDonald himself hasn’t ridden in Australia since his fourth aboard the Waller-trained Delectation in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) behind Under The Louvre at Eagle Farm in Brisbane back on June 11.
“I took a couple of weeks off and had a holiday in Europe and I’ve only been back in Sydney for a little over a week,” McDonald said.
“I’m at the same stage of my preparation as the horses I am riding.
“My weight is around 55.5 or 56kg and I don’t want to get too light too soon.
“It is a long spring ahead and I’ve got to time my run.
“I’m loving being back in Sydney and it is a great time to be returning because all the good horses are starting to fire up.”
Hartnell is one of just five rides across the nine-race Warwick Stakes Day card for McDonald who eases back into spring racing at the meeting.
His other rides are: the Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott-trained Thronum in the Group 3 Up And Coming Stakes (1300m); the O’Shea-trained filly Calliope in the Group 2 Silver Shadow Stakes (1200m); Vashka for Godolphin in the Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m); and Haptic for O’Shea in the last.
Back Harntell and McDonald’s other rides on Saturday at the right price through Ladbrokes.com.au today!