THE 2017 Melbourne Cup field narrowed down to 32 horses on Monday afternoon following the close of second acceptances, and the race looks like it could be a blue-bath.
The Godolphin stable already has the Cup favourite Harntell ($4.60 at Sportsbet.com.au) headlining their involvement, which could potentially include six other of their horses.
However, not all has gone according to plan for the English import.
Hartnell’s performance in the Cox Plate was meant to enhance the expectations of the Godolphin runner in the eyes of punters, but after being blasted by star Mare Winx, the gelding has seen her odds drift slightly out from the $3.20 price prior to last week’s run.
Despite not troubling Winx in the Cox Plate, Godolphin’s Australian head trainer John O’Shea said he was impressed with how well Hartnell has recovered after finishing second in last Saturday’s Group 1 race.
“I swam him myself this morning and he towed me around the pool,” O’Shea said.
“He’s feeling really well and has come through the run better than I expected. We’ll monitor him in the next couple of days and I wouldn’t run him in a Melbourne Cup unless I was completely happy with him.”
There will be plenty of recognisable names running around on the first Tuesday of November, but there will be several notable absentees.
The quality of racing and the arduous nature of this year’s build-up has been telling given horses the calibre of Preferment, The United States and last year’s Victoria Derby winner Tarzino electing to not run.
Caulfield Cup winner and second favourite Jameka ($6.50 at Sportsbet.com.au) is one horse that will take her place in the field.
Hartnell and Jameka are currently the only two horses in single figures heading into the race that stops a nation.
The Ciaron Maher trained runner was blown away by Hartnell two starts back before exploding away from the field to win the Group 1 Caulfield Cup a fortnight ago, adding some spice to a potential rematch.
Maher believes his horse may have ‘improved’ after her stunning Caulfield Cup win.
“She’s come through the Caulfield Cup in great style. She might even have improved a bit. She gives every indication to me that she will run the two miles,” Maher said.
“She’s an exceptional athlete.”
Star sprinter Terravista set to resume during the Melbourne Cup carnival
For the third straight year class sprinter Terravista will compete during the Melbourne Cup carnival at Flemington, but not in the Darley Stakes as expected.
The seven-year-old will resume in the Listed G.H. Mumm Stakes on Oaks Day in preparation to go head-to-head alongside long-time rival Lankan Rupee in the Winterbottom Stakes on November 26.
Terravista’s trainer Joe Pride said he wanted to give his galloper one run at Flemington before deciding whether or not the sprinter will make the journey to Perth.
“I’d love to have had him ready for those other races, but it was never going to be possible and I’ve had this race in the back of my mind for the last month or so. He’s been coming along nicely and I’m more than happy to give him his chance over 1000m,” Pride said.
“He’s a very lazy trialler and trackworker, he generally saves it for race day but the horse is on track.
“It will be interesting to see what lines up against him, but the horse is in good order and I’m sure that he’ll race well.”
The Winterbottom Stakes is not until the tail end of November but Pride believes the run on the third of the month will give the best indication yet of whether he will be worth the trip across the Nullarbor.
“He’s nominated for it and there is time, but we’ll just take things one step at a time,” he said.
“I just want to see him race well and then we’ll make some plans from there.”
Winx to be spelled after claiming second Cox Plate crown
The future of superstar stayer Winx has been put to rest by the mare’s camp ahead of the Melbourne Cup carnival launch after trainer Chris Waller confirmed the back-to-back Cox Plate winner will be spelled.
There were rumours circulating around the racing community that the champion racehorse received inoculation shots in preparation for a trip to Hong Kong, but Waller said the other than a well-deserved rest the star five-year-old’s plans are not set in stone.
“We have carefully deliberated on what is best for the horse as well as ensuring she spends a reasonable period in the spelling paddock,” Waller said in a statement.
“Options such as travelling overseas and returning for a third Cox Plate in 2017 are also items the owners and I will discuss in the near future.”
Winx captured the imagination of the sporting public after her magnificent eight length win in the Cox Plate, a victory that elevated her into legendary status.
Waller said it was important to keep the horse fresh in order to solidify her legacy as one of the greatest horses of all-time.
“Longevity is the key for this mare as it will provide many more special moments over the next 12 months and beyond.”