The 2016 Cox Plate odds on the John O’Shea-trained Hartnell to stop the Winx domination are firming after the Godolphin stable confirmed the in-form galloper would bypass the Caulfield Cup in favour of Australasia’s weight-for-age classic.
Connections paid the third acceptance fee this week for Authorized six-year-old Hartnell in both the $3 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) and the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) running on October 15 and 22 respectively.
Since third declarations for the opening two Spring Majors closed, Godolphin have confirmed the Cox Plate path with Hartnell making for a mouth-watering clash with Australia’s best racehorse.
“There is no particular reason over and above the fact that we think it is a nice race for him, he is going very well over a-mile-and-a-quarter, he is settling in his races,” Godolphin’s Australian managing director Henry Plumptre announced in a press conference at Flemington on Thursday.
“Someone mentioned to me yesterday that we left him in the Caulfield Cup at the last acceptance stage and we did that in case something went wrong with [Godolphin’s UK raider] Scottish this week, but it was purely to see if he gets over his trip okay.
“John Ferguson didn’t think there was much point running Sheikh Mohammed’s best European stayer against his best Aussie stayer in the Caulfield Cup and wanted to split them up.”
Chris Waller’s five-year-old Street Cry mare Winx chases back-to-back Cox Plate wins in a fortnight’s time and has her final tune-up on Saturday in the Group 1 Ladbrokes Stakes (2000m).
She scared off all but two rivals this weekend, but O’Shea and the Godolphin team have not been deterred by her presence in the Cox Plate field this year.
“She [Winx] is a champion mare and you know with Chris [Waller] and Hughie [Bowman] that it will be on its absolute best on Cox Plate Day,” O’Shea said.
“With regard to the competition factor, I think that is more for the racing public to get involved in, we are just about getting our own house in order.”
Winx currently sits top of the all-in Cox Plate betting markets at Ladbrokes.com.au paying $2.
After the news Hartnell would take on the superstar for a fourth time in the classic, he has firmed in those same markets and is now hot on the defending star’s heels at $3.
Hartnell took Winx on in last year’s Cox Plate finishing over 10 lengths away fifth.
He has gone two more rounds with the now $7 million earner with a fifth in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) in the autumn and a first-up second in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) at Randwick.
Since the brave effort in the Warwick Stakes Hartnell has won his subsequent three starts including his runaway demolition job in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington last Sunday as the odds-on favourite.
The last Cox Plate winner to back directly up off a Turnbull start was El Segundo (6th in 2007), while the Caulfield Stakes – Cox Plate double Winx is after was last completed by Ocean Park (2012).
O’Shea said Hartnell had come through the Turnbull Stakes run in excellent order and it was all systems go to the Cox Plate off the three week turnaround.
“You wouldn’t know he had a run to be honest, he dropped only 1kg for the day out,” he said.
“He has made good improvement again, we are happy with where he is at and I’m happy with the three weeks going in to the Cox Plate.”
Plumptre also left open the option of Hartnell backing up from the Cox Plate in the $6.2 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) on the first Tuesday of November.
“Depending on what happens in the Cox Plate we will see what happens in that race before deciding whether he goes on to the Melbourne Cup,” he said.
Hartnell contested last year’s Melbourne Cup running 5.9 lengths away 15th behind Prince Of Penzance.
To back Hartnell in the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup 2016 make sure you head to Ladbrokes.com.au for the best markets.