Sunday at the Sunshine Coast sees the postponed...
Early money is coming for the 2017 champion and last year’s runner-up Hartnell to take out this weekend’s P.B. Lawrence Stakes 2019 at Caulfield despite the nine-year-old facing the Cox Plate favourite Mystic Journey.
No question Adam Trinder’s returning All-Star Mile champion Mystic Journey is the one to beat, the four-year-old daughter of Needs Further odds-on at $1.85 first-up through Ladbrokes.com.au to salute in the Group 2 $200,000 P.B. Lawrence Stakes (1400m).
Still there are a few punters taking her on and getting behind Godolphin warhorse Hartnell, a triple Group 1 champion and regular rival to the world’s best racehorse Winx.
“He’s a veteran who loves the feeling of being boss,” trainer James Cummings told the Herald Sun.
“He has a presence that makes the young horses actually look up to him.”
Hartnell faced the historic mare eight times including the 2015 and 2016 editions of the Cox Plate.
In the latter he ran second when Winx set her eight-length winning margin in what was her second of an eventual four victories in the Australasian weight-for-age championship.
Hartnell also ran against Winx last time out in her swansong race when he placed third in April’s Group 1 $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick.
Saturday has the grand old campaigner stepping out as a nine-year-old for the first time, Hartnell after his first victory since the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) in September of 2018.
His latest Caulfield run was in February’s Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) crossing just a length back third to Alizee and this weekend has him lining-up in a third straight P.B. Lawrence Stakes.
“This is his third time in the Lawrence, he’s won it and run second in it, and he knows what’s going on,” Cummings said.
“Even though he’s a bit older now, he’s thriving.
“He’s shown us that he’s ready for another campaign and I have no doubt that he’s ready to run a good race.”
After opening at $5.50, P.B. Lawrence Stakes odds at Ladbrokes.com.au have firmed on Hartnell who is now a $4.20 shot jumping from a nice gate four gate with Winx’s regular rider Hugh Bowman in the saddle.
Bowman has a nice association with Hartnell having partnered the import four times under race conditions including for the Epsom win last spring and his third in this year’s Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m).
Hartnell only has to finish in the top four on Saturday to see him become just the 11th horse in Australian racing history to amass over $7 million in prize money.
This season’s Group 1 $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) at The Valley on October 26 could be on the agenda for Hartnell who hasn’t contested the event since 2016.
He is at $13 in pre-field Cox Plate odds, which are firmly led by Saturday’s P.B. Lawrence Stakes favourite Mystic Journey ($4.50).
The fairy tale filly from Tassie is odds-on at $1.95 to salute first-up this weekend after a simply incredible autumn campaign that put her and the Apple Isle firmly on the map ahead of the spring.
Cummings is hoping to use the P.B. Lawrence Stakes results as a guide to whether or not Hartnell would continue towards the Cox Plate 2019.
“I’m keen to see how far off Mystic Journey he is,” he said.
“She’s the Cox Plate favourite and we’ll get a wonderful guide on where he stands.”
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