Hartnell primed for Makybe Diva showdown
Trainer James Cummings says Hartnell provides the energy and is the spirit of the Godolphin stable ahead of the major carnivals.
A stable favourite, Hartnell invariably leads the team into battle and runs on Saturday in the Group One Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.
Hartnell has finished behind Makybe Diva opponents Mystic Journey and Scales Of Justice at the first two starts of his campaign.
Cummings says there will be an extra buzz around Carbine Lodge, Godolphin's Melbourne stable, if Hartnell wins on Saturday.
"He is really the nucleus of all of our horses here in the stable," Cummings said.
"He's been around for long enough that people feel the energy and the spirit of the stable can often revolve around Hartnell.
"He's often in the hardest race of the weekend for us and any weekend where Hartnell is winning is a good weekend for that reason.
"I reflect back on his first-up win in the C F Orr over 1400 metres back in the autumn last year or even when he was able to rip up the middle of the Randwick straight in the Epsom and set a course record.
"They were fantastic wins that really were cherished by the stable and by everyone that has anything to do with Hartnell."
Cummings said Saturday's race was the fork in the road for Hartnell but he believes the gelding is in peak condition for Saturday's assignment.
"He's been able to produce that one big run for us every preparation," Cummings said.
"We like to keep him a little bit on the fresh side, but he's really fit now third-up and without talking ourselves into it, it's a race where he can produce his best.
"We really wanted to make sure for the Makybe Diva that he is ready to fire, but it's a little bit of a fork in the road for him.
"We could go to the Underwood, he holds a nomination for the Epsom or we can keep him fresh and go to a race like the Toorak.
"We've got our options open with him, but he's really ready to go while the Cox Plate has been mentioned in dispatches too."
Cummings will not be tying jockey Craig Williams down with instructions from barrier 11 with Mystic Journey drawn inside him.
The trainer does not see a lot of early pace which could result in a muddling run race.
"Craig Williams is going to have an open mind when it comes to what happens after the first furlong," Cummings said.