The star of Godolphin’s Australian stable is a short-priced favourite to give trainer James Cummings his first Group One win for the global operation.
Cummings was appointed as head trainer in Australia for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation earlier this year and Hartnell will be his first Group One runner for the team in Saturday’s Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.
Hartnell impressed in his first-up win in the Group Two PB Lawrence Stakes at Caulfield and, with champion mare Winx again racing in Sydney this weekend, the gelding gets a golden opportunity in Melbourne to add a third Group One win to his record.
Seven-year-old Hartnell headlines a field of 12 for the weight-for-age race, which includes 11 individual Group One winners, and is the $1.75 favourite ahead of Black Heart Bart at $5.50 at Crown Bet.
Le Romain ($8.50) is the only other runner at single figure odds.
“Not only were we very impressed by his return in the PB Lawrence where he was able to win very comfortably over 1400 metres, but we’ve been very pleased with him in between runs,” Cummings said.
“He looked like he absorbed that first-up run even better than his preliminary training. It’s a really good sign.”
Last year’s Turnbull Stakes winner has had four weeks between his first-up race and Saturday and Cummings said he had galloped stylishly in the lead-up.
“This race is that little bit stronger than what he faced first-up and some of those horses will have an extra run under their belts,” Cummings said.
“Hartnell might be a little vulnerable from that perspective, but he’s certainly giving us all the indications that he’s ready to fire.
“We’re very excited about his prospects on the weekend and getting him into his preferred environment where he gets out on a big track and can use his big action and get plenty of galloping room.”
Hartnell has barrier eight and Kerrin McEvoy will ride the gelding in a race for the first time.
Victoria’s premier trainer Darren Weir has three runners with Australian Cup winner Humidor and import Gailo Chop joining Black Heart Bart.
Australian Guineas winner Hey Doc has the outside barrier and will wear ear muffs for the first time in a bid to get him to relax better than he did when fourth in the Memsie Stakes last start.