Hartnell makes 30th G1 appearance in Makybe Diva at Flemington
The 30th G1 start in Hartnell’s varied and worthy career comes in Saturday’s G1 Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington with stable anticipation as buoyant as ever.
Hartnell meets a field that trainer James Cummings acknowledges is the strongest he’s faced in the two runs of his current preparation, but as always, there are reasons to believe the nine-year-old can produce something special.
In particular, Cummings noted that in his past two campaigns Hartnell’s best effort has come at his third run back.
“He won the Epsom third-up last spring and finished second in the All-Star Mile at the same stage of his autumn campaign,” the trainer said.
“And he’s training like his third run is going to be his best this time. He’s going beautifully.”
Hartnell began his latest prep with a strong third behind Australia’s new star performer Mystic Journey in the G2 PB Lawrence Stakes four weeks ago and followed that with a fourth to Scales Of Justice in the G1 Memsie Stakes on 31 August.
As much as Cummings is looking forward to another performance of G1 standard, he’s keeping his expectations in check.
“This is a genuine G1-quality field and as well as Mystic Journey there are some very good horses engaged,” he said.
Among them are the former Europeans Rostropovich, Yucatan and Kings Will Dream, along with the locals Scales of Justice and Humidor.
Also at Flemington, the G1 Blue Diamond Stakes winner Lyre runs second-up in the G2 Danehill Stakes.
Sam Freedman, foreman for his father and trainer Anthony Freedman, said the filly was ready to improve on her first-up fourth to Exhilarates at Caulfield three weeks ago, although she would be likely to be at her best over distances beyond Saturday’s 1,200m.
“Even in her first-up run, she raced like she might be looking for 1,400m, but we’ll be waiting for the Guineas Prelude to get her out to that trip,” Freedman said
“At Caulfield, she just found it difficult to sprint with the others, but her last 100m was good."
“And a run like that might also toughen her up a bit.”
“It will be interesting to see how Athiri goes up the straight course. She’s back in distance so it won’t be too tough on her.”
Tenley drops back in grade and moves out to 1,400m in the Exford Plate.
“It would be fair to say she has to improve on her first-up run,” Cummings said.
“But as a two-year-old, she beat horses like Exhilarates and Anaheed in the Reisling at G2.”