Cummings: Hartnell enjoying fresh approach
GODOLPHIN trainer James Cummings is channelling the lessons he learnt from the "Cups King" to ready Hartnell for another Melbourne Cup bid next Tuesday.
It was initially felt Hartnell would miss the famous Flemington two-miler after his disappointing Caulfield Stakes effort last month but the Godolphin supremo, inspired by his late grandfather, 12-time Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Bart Cummings, initiated a change in training routine to reignite the stayer's preparation for the race that stops a nation.
"One thing I learned off my grandfather was never stop trying new things,'' Cummings said.
"For the many years I sat there learning from him, I always saw him trying and experimenting and thinking about his horses.
"He would often tell me no two horses are the same and to treat them as individuals.''
Hartnell, a beaten favourite when third to Almandin in the Melbourne Cup last year, is now a seven-year-old gelding and Cummings has tailored the stayer's preparation to peak next Tuesday.
"I can appreciate Hartnell is not getting any younger so I'm trying to get inside his mind and keep him happy,'' Cummings said.
"Every time I've watched him race in Australia inside 14 days he has not been quite at his best.
"Whilst he was a little flat for us in the Caulfield Stakes, he looks like he is ready to bounce back.
"I feel he is enjoying the training we are giving him. He has appreciated having a few easy weeks since the Caulfield Stakes. He looks to be working nicely towards his peak, I feel he is racing more like a two-miler and if we run him in the Cup, I'm sure he will run well.''
Hartnell galloped on the Flemington course proper on Tuesday morning over 1600m in 1m 55.01s including a final 400m in an impressive 23.55s, convincing Cummings the stayer is on target for the Melbourne Cup.
Cummings said a final decision on a Melbourne Cup start rests with owner Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum but it seems increasingly likely Hartnell will be the No. 1 saddlecloth bearer with 57.5kg on Tuesday.
"As more of the spring unfolded, we could see how it was piecing together and thought it would be a nice fit for this horse,'' Cummings said of a Melbourne Cup start for Hartnell.
"He has paid the price for having a really good 12 months and has topweight in the Cup but he does have a 3kg weight pull in his favour over Almandin this year.''
The other option for Hartnell is the $2 million Emirates Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on November 11 which could potentially set up another showdown with champion mare Winx.
"The reality is Hartnell has had his chance against Winx when he was younger and in great form,'' Cummings said. "So that option doesn't attract me!".
Cummings also pointed out that Godolphin's English trainer Charlie Appleby has Cox Plate minor placegetter Folkswood being aimed at the Emirates Stakes.
The Cummings stable has a strong entry for Derby Day on Saturday with boom unbeaten colt Viridine likely to be joined by Kementari and Malahat in the Group 1 $1 million Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m).
Cummings won the Group 1 $1.5 million Victoria Derby (2500m) last year with Prized Icon and is hoping for a repeat triumph with Astoria on Saturday.