AS we enter the final stages of the build up to the Melbourne Cup, the elephant – or is it the Godolphin – in the room is the inclusion of Hartnell in this year’s event.
On name value alone there is no question that last year’s third place-getter in the Cup is worthy of a spot in the 2017 edition of the race, but we are not talking about the same Hartnell that gallantly stayed on behind Almandin and Heartbreak City this time last year.
Racing experts assumed that Hartnell, despite sitting third in the 2017 Melbourne Cup order of entry, would be withdrawn from the race. The form in the build up to the spring carnival had been uninspiring and making the horse slog it out over the 3200m trip at Flemington seemed counterproductive.
Yet here we are, less than a week out from the race that stops a nation and Godolphin has confirmed that their star galloper will take its place in the Melbourne Cup.
To our eye there are a number of reasons why Hartnell should not be running in this year’s Melbourne Cup.
Outside of the gelding’s strong P.B Lawrence Stakes victory in August, Hartnell has not registered a win in its nine other runs dating back to September, 2016. It’s not as if the gelding was going around in superstar fields either. On three of those occasions Hartnell jumped as a $2.90 or better chance and failed to salute.
To further compound those woes, the horse’s last group one race should also have rang alarm bells for the stable.
Its last start ninth in the 2017 Caulfield Cup was indicative of just how far the horse has fallen. As a key market elect the horse was miles off the pace and never looked like firing a shot.
It would be a great disservice to the horse if it ran extremely poorly in the biggest race of the year.
The market also reflects punters’ lack of confidence in Hartnell. The dual group one winner is $21 outsider at Ladbrokes to win this year’s Melbourne Cup.
The move smacks of desperation from a stable that has its collective heart set on winning the Melbourne Cup.
Godolphin has achieved worldwide success in just about every big-name event you could imagine, but the one crown that has eluded Sheik Mohammed is a win in the race that stops a nation. Godolphin has had 26 runners since 1998 for a best of three seconds — Central Park (1999), Give The Slip (2001) and Crime Scene (2009).
Hartnell could potentially be the only Godolphin runner lining up in his year’s Cup, which suggests to us that the horse is running to save face for the stable.
Godolphin want to tick the Melbourne Cup box. They 100% won't do it with Hartnell.
— Adam Page (@AdamPage1991) November 1, 2017
Not that the stable will care too much, but Hartnell’s inclusion means we may not see the best possible Melbourne Cup either.
A far more worthy runner will potentially miss out on a Cup berth, like the Willie Mullins-trained Thomas Hobson.
Connections will face a nervous wait to see if their elect gets into the race given its currently 33 on the ballot. The UK raider has been well supported in the all-in markets and punters will be lamenting the Godolphin runner if the horse does not rise up the order of entry.
Despite there being no guarantees the horse even makes the final field, Ladbrokes currently has Thomas Hobson as a $17 chance to win the Melbourne Cup.
Whichever way you slice it we believe Hartnell should not be running in the 2017 Melbourne Cup. Nothing, except maybe our bank accounts, would please us more than being proved wrong, but we think this is more about optics than anything else.
Good luck Hartnell – you’ll need it.