Hartnell has closed strongly to finish sixth in a 1000-metre barrier trial at Randwick in his first public outing since his third in the Melbourne Cup.
The John O’Shea-trained Hartnell settled back in the field in Friday’s heat before James Doyle urged him to the line.
Australia’s second best racehorse and No.8 in the 2016 world ratings, Hartnell is now on a collision course with the world’s best turf performer, Winx.
Like Winx, who finished third behind Americans Arrogate and California Chrome in the world rankings announced this week, Hartnell is expected to resume in the Group Two Apollo Stakes on February 11.
The last time they met in the Cox Plate, Winx had eight lengths to spare on Hartnell.
The Chris Waller-trained mare will have her second trial this month when she steps out over 1000 metres at Rosehill on Tuesday.