A month of top-class racing in Melbourne will get a flying start Feb. 10, with the likes of Hartnell and Black Heart Bart in a field of 14 for the Ladbrokes C. F. Orr Stakes (G1) at Caulfield.
Hartnell, a 7-year-old gelding by Authorized owned by Godolphin and trained by James Cummings, was last seen finishing 20th of 23 in the Emirates Melbourne Cup (G1) Nov. 17. That was at 3,200 meters, or about two miles.
While Hartnell did win the Queen's Vase going two miles at Royal Ascot in 2014 and finished third in the 2016 Melbourne Cup, the 1,400 meters of the Orr is well within his recent comfort zone, where he has mixed it up with some of Australia's best, including a second-place finish behind Winx in The Star Apollo Stakes (G2) at 1,400 meters a year ago.
Black Heart Bart, 7-year-old gelding by Blackfriars, is one of three entries in the Orr for trainer Darren Weir. Black Heart Bart won the Orr last year, and backed that up with a victory in the ItalkTravel Futurity (G1) over the same about seven-furlong course two weeks later, but hasn't won in eight intervening starts.
Weir's others are a pair of Japanese-bred runners, Brave Smash, a 5-year-old son of Tosen Phantom who finished third in the AUS$10 million Everest Stakes Oct. 14, and 7-year-old Tosen Stardom, by Deep Impact. Tosen Stardom won the United Petroleum Toorak Handicap (G1) at Caulfield and the Emirates MacKinnon (G1) at Flemington at the end of last season.
The youngster in the group is Mighty Boss, a 3-year-old colt by Not A Single Doubt. The Mick Price trainee ended last season with a win in the Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas (G1) and won a trial at Geelong Jan. 29 in preparation for the Orr.
Craig Williams is engaged to ride Hartnell, who drew gate 12 in a field of 14. Black Heart Bart, under Brad Rawiller, will start from post 3, while Tosen Stardom drew the outside stall.
The Orr is the first of nine group 1 races highlighting Melbourne's autumn festival of racing, which runs to mid-March.