Quiet morning: Trainer John O’Shea with Godolphin’s stable pony (foreground) and Hartnell at Flemington. Photo: Chris RootsWizard of Odds: Live Odds, Form and Alerts for all Racing
Flemington racecourse early on a Sunday morning is a lonely place.
There are just a couple of horses out for a morning stretch with their riders. There are no trainers to be seen.
Then, about 6am, a grey horse and his mate walk into the tunnel followed by a man dressed in Godolphin blue.
No fanfare, but this bay horse, Hartnell, will carry the hopes of most punters on Tuesday.
Hartnell’s trainer, John O’Shea, is usually surrounded by a team of helpers, but this morning he is alone.
He could be back at Mareeba racecourse in far north Queensland where he first trained. O’Shea gets to the top of the tunnel, definitely something Mareeba lacks, and watches Hartnell work a couple of laps. He is quiet and thoughtful. He chats as Hartnell returns.
“He’s good. He did his main work yesterday. It is about keeping him ticking over this morning,” he says. “The race could be tomorrow and he would be ready.”
There is time for reflection on the past three Saturdays. Godolphin have had three seconds in the group 1 races – Scottish for Charlie Appleby in the Caulfield Cup, Hartnell was left in Winx’s afterburn in the Cox Plate, and Astern, O’Shea’s star colt, found one better (Flying Artie) in the Coolmore Stud Stakes on Saturday.
“The Cox Plate was a good day out and helped him,” O’Shea says, even though Hartnell was an eight-length runner-up.
Hartnell walks back with his grey mate and puts his neck next to his companion.
“He likes the company. He likes to have a little cuddle,” O’Shea says. “It’s all good. He has come through the Cox Plate well and we get to the Melbourne Cup happy. We’ll find out how happy on Tuesday.”
O’Shea walks back into the tunnel following the horse that on Tuesday could see him a hero to the nation, and to the boss, Sheikh Mohammed, who has chased the Melbourne Cup for more than 20 years.
He passes another trainer and friend, John Thompson, who follows his first Cup runner Sir John Hawkwood out to the centre of Flemington.
“Good luck, hey, John,” O’Shea says, with a distinctly north Queensland drawl. He is still the boy from Mareeba.
“Thanks, you too,” Thompson replies.
Sir John Hawkwood is out to do a bit more than the favourite. His final bit of work reflects the biggest influence on Thompson, the biggest influence on the Melbourne Cup – Bart Cummings.
“He is just going to do five [furlongs], home three, but steady,” Thompson says. It was Bart’s magic formula, a 1000-metre gallop and acceleration in the last 600 metres.
Blake Spriggs gets sore arms holding Sir John Hawkwood as he pounds down the steeple grass running just over 25 seconds for his final 400 metres.
“That is how good he is feeling. It was good strong work and what the boss would like,” Thompson says with a nod to the Cups king. The ultimate racing form guide with free tips, live odds and alerts for all racing.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.