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The Melbourne Cup 2017 dreams of the powerhouse Godolphin stable now rely solely on the James Cummings-trained top weight Hartnell next Tuesday after the withdrawal of Qewy.
The operation’s UK-based trainer Charlie Appleby ruled out Wednesday’s impressive Bendigo Cup winner and last year’s fourth-placegetter in the Group 1 $6.25 million Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) Qewy from a second shot at the ‘Race That Stops A Nation’.
Instead their hopes in the world-famous two mile handicap at Flemington this spring lay with Hartnell, the now seven-year-old third in last year’s Melbourne Cup trifecta.
Godolphin has had an incredible 26 Melbourne Cup horses contesting 18 editions of the world’s richest handicap since 1998.
Their best result has been a trio of second place finishes with: Central Park (1999), Give The Slip (2001) and Crime Scene (2009).
Hartnell was one of five for the team behind the famous royal blue silks, and their best result, but is their only chance in 2017.
The imported Authroized gelding backed-up from his distant second to Winx in the Cox Plate of 2016 to finish in the money behind Almandin (1st) and Heartbreak City (2nd) on the first Tuesday of November last year.
Hartnell had 56kg and James McDonald on then and rises to the 57.5kg top kilos with Damian Lane coming aboard for his first ride on the $4.46 million earner.
Lane rides in his third straight Melbourne Cup field after a ninth on Quest For More in 2015 behind $101 winner Prince Of Penzance and a seventh on the Godolphin-raced Beautiful Romance last spring.
No Melbourne Cup winner since the mighty Makybe Diva (58kg) for her third in 2005 has carried more than 56.5kg to victory, giving Hartnell a notable hoodoo to overcome this Melbourne Cup Carnival.
Since his Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) success over subsequent Caulfield Cup winner Jameka in October last year, Hartnell has posted just one other win.
That came first-up on August 19 this campaign when carrying 60kg to a cruisy win in the Group 2 P.B. Lawrence Stakes (1400m).
His next two runs produced seconds to Humidor, who went on to finish the brave second to Winx in this year’s Cox Plate results, in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) and then Bonneval in the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) as the beaten favourite in both.
Hartnell hasn’t raced since his flat ninth beaten six lengths by the winner Gailo Chop in the Group 1 Ladbrokes Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on October 14.
That is far from the ideal formline to follow into the Melbourne Cup, but Cummings remains confident Hartnell can improve sharply after being freshened-up for the return to two mile racing.
“To have a Melbourne Cup runner for Sheikh Mohammed is a great honour and is also a credit to our team here in Australia who have got Hartnell to a level where he is a genuine contender,” Cummings said.
“He’s been racing a bit like a handicapper at his last couple of starts and the form around him is very strong.”
Hartnell is a $21 chance in the latest Melbourne Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au, which are led by the defending Lloyd Williams-owned winner Almandin ($6.50).
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