By Ray Hickson
In the 14 years the Group 1 $600,000 Schweppes All Aged Stakes has been run at 1400m no horse has won the race coming off a 2000m race.
Such is the task facing Godolphin warhorse Hartnell at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
It’ll also be the seven-year-old's first start at Randwick since he chased home Winx in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes 12 months ago.
Hartnell has proven to be effective at 1400m when on the fresh side, with first-up wins at the Caulfield 1400m in both the spring and autumn, and his only Australian defeats at the trip have been at the hands of Winx.
She's not there this time, though trainer James Cummings has snared her jockey Hugh Bowman to ride Hartnell. Cummings said he attacks the race in good shape.
“Hartnell is back after a six week break and looks nice and fresh coming into this race, which is how we wanted him to be,” he said.
“He’s in good shape and it would be satisfying to see him get back into the form that he was in when he beat Brave Smash first-up in the CF Orr Stakes.”
Hartnell, $8.50 with TAB, hasn’t raced since he finished 10th in the Australian Cup (2000m) back on March 10 and while few would have attempted to win the All Aged off such a drop in trip it’s still a challenge.
The gelding contested an 807m trial at Warwick Farm on April 9, beaten 8.8 lengths by runaway winner Cradle Mountain, and has pleased Cummings at home since.
“He had a nice blowout in a barrier trial but looks to have come on again for a race that looks like it’s going to contain plenty of pressure,” Cummings said.
Last year’s Doncaster winner It’s Somewhat would appear to be headed to Brisbane for their carnival and Cummings is expecting this seven-year-old to catch the eye fresh in the All Aged.
It’s Somewhat was well travelled in the spring, placing in the Mackinnon Stakes before running fifth in the Railway Stakes over in Perth in December.
He’s not expected by TAB to trouble the fancied runners being a $21 chance.
“He has had a couple of solid hit-outs prior to this first-up run and, at a distance that shouldn’t be far below where he should be comfortable, we feel he can run quite a cheeky race,” Cummings said.
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“His work has been very good and his first-up record isn’t bad, so I can see him running a pretty interesting race.”
Godolphin’s chances of a Group 1 two-year-old win in Sydney rest with $16 chance Encryption in the $500,000 Moet & Chandon Champagne Stakes (1600m).
The son of 2013 Champagne winner Guelph ran a close up sixth in the Sires’ behind El Dorado Dreaming, where Punters Intel had his last 600m at 35.37, though Cummings said he had excuses.
“Encryption had a pretty tough run in the Sires' Produce where he had to use up a fair bit from his wide barrier,” he said.
“He needed a week to get over that run, but the sort of work he’s shown me early this week has been very strong and I think stepping up to 1600m for the first time provides him with a very interesting challenge.
“Whether or not he’s going to bridge that gap, which was only narrow, we’ll have to wait and see.”