One of the finest efforts of his distinguished career carried Hartnell to a sensational victory in the G1 CF Orr Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday, 10 February.
The star of Godolphin’s Australian stable rose to new heights with his last-stride win, at the same time earning himself a possible re-match with the Champion mare Winx.
Trainer James Cummings had brought Hartnell to Melbourne to avoid Winx, but his stunning Orr Stakes success has caused a revision of plans and Hartnell may now return to Sydney to run in G1 Chipping Norton Stakes, a race in which Winx is due to make her autumn debut.
Hartnell is yet to beat the Champion mare in seven attempts, but Cummings says the Chipping Norton, at 1,600m, looms as a natural progression for the son of Authorized.
“I would like to run him in the best race available to him and that might be the Chipping Norton,” Cummings said.
“I also like the idea of keeping him fresh, so we’ll see how he comes through this win. “He’s a unique horse … I haven’t trained one like him.”
The Orr Stakes victory was Hartnell’s third G1 win, following successes in the BMW at Rosehill in 2015 and the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington in 2016.
For Cummings, the win was his second at G1 level since joining Godolphin as head Australian trainer last July. It also took Hartnell’s racetrack earnings to almost A$5 million from 12 wins and 13 placings.
Having his first start since finishing down the field in last November’s Melbourne Cup, Hartnell, not surprisingly, found the early pace too hot and was being ridden along near the rear of the field in the 1,400m race.
At the halfway mark he still had most of the field ahead of him, but jockey Craig Williams persisted and Hartnell responded brilliantly over the final 100m, getting up in the last stride to beat Single Gaze.
Williams was full of praise for the horse he described as “an absolute warrior”.
“We had a lot to do from the top of the straight, but every time I asked him he gave me something and in the last few strides he really stuck his neck out.”
Hartnell’s versatility has allowed him to win from the 3,200m of the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot as a three-year-old in 2014, to the 1,400m of his latest success.
In between he has run in an English St Leger and been placed in three of Australia’s best races, the Melbourne Cup, the Cox Plate and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Hartnell was one of five winners for Godolphin and Cummings on the day, two of them in Stakes races.