The last Group 1 race of the season in Australia...
It was tooth and nail right to the line, but Godolphin owned Hartnell has claimed the $1 million Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Randwick.
Punters are used to seeing jockey Hugh Bowman in blue, but it wasn’t Winx crossing the line in first place on Saturday. Instead, it was the champion mare’s long-time rival setting a new race record of 1:32.73 – the first time the Randwick mile has been run under 1:33 seconds.
Entering the race at $21 with Ladbrokes, the now four-time Group 1 winner was always a chance, and just when it looked like James McDonald and D’argento had the race won, the veteran eight-year old came barreling down the outside to swoop in late.
The win was reminiscent of Winx’s victory in this same race back in 2015. Riding Hartnell for only the second time, Bowman felt pleased from the very beginning.
“He never runs a bad race the horse,” the champion jockey said.
“I was very happy going to the start, he just felt in good order, but that doesn’t tell the tale.
“We ended up with a really nice run and I was able to work into it, but I did see James go through and hit the lead and I thought ‘I’m not going to catch that horse’ because I know the talent that he’s got.
“But when I came around, I didn’t rush through the gears, this horse has to be balanced to show his best, I just let him get organised and when I got out after D’argento I could sense I was going to get to him.”
Bowman’s ride was nothing short of extraordinary, although it does help knowing Hartnell loves the Randwick track.
Including Saturday’s win, he’s now won on three separate occasions in Sydney, and even though the plan ahead remains unclear, you can expect to see the eight-year old in a Cup sometime soon.
“He’s a super horse, he’s just had a great build up, we had him here third up, it was a bold move running him in an Epsom when we could’ve run him weight for age and been a chance in the Hill Stakes” trainer James Cummings said after the race.
While Cummings credits a team effort, he was also glad to have Hugh on board.
“Hugh’s been the fly in Hartnell’s ointment for a long time, but he’s probably payed Hartnell back there winning an Epsom in classic Hugh style.”
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