The Turnbull Stakes is always a key lead to the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup and that will be the case again in 2016.
Hartnell will start the Turnbull Stakes as a clear favourite, but there is a question mark over his form the Melbourne way of going and there is plenty of talent in this Group 1 event.
Will Hartnell finally deliver John O’Shea a maiden Group 1 victory in Melbourne for Godolphin or will there be more disappointment for the boys in blue?
Preferment scored a narrow victory over Royal Descent in the 2015 Turnbull Stakes. Photo by: Ultimate Racing Photos
Preferment does not look like the same horse that won two Group 1 races in the autumn and the Turnbull Stakes last year. He was outsprinted by the likes of Who Shot Thebarman and Storm The Stars last start and surely he isn’t going well enough to win another Group 1. Even his best form is a couple of lengths behind that of Hartnell.
It is tough to know what to make of Tarzino so far this preparation as he has had some kind of excuse in his of his race starts to date. He is running out of chances though and he really needs to produce an improved performance if he is going to be a genuine Caulfield Cup contender.
Happy Trails was far from disgraced in the Makybe Diva Stakes and he should produce another similar performance in the Turnbull Stakes. His best form is good enough to win this race – he did so back in 2013 – but it has now been well over a year since he rated at that level.
Hartnell is a dominant favourite to take out the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington on Sunday. Photo by: Steve Hart
Outside of Winx, Hartnell has been the star of the 2016 Spring Racing Carnival. He returned with a more than credible performance behind Winx in the Warwick Stakes and he has gone on to hit new peak ratings in both the Chelmsford Stakes and the Hill Stakes. The ease of his victories in those races can’t be underestimated and those performances give him a clear edge over the rest of this field. The only question mark is the Melbourne way of going. He failed to fire in Melbourne last spring, but that was on much firmer tracks than he will face on Sunday and he is one horse that will definitely benefit from the rain that is expected to hit Melbourne. John O’Shea may never have a better chance to record a maiden Group 1 win for Godolphin in Melbourne.
The United States
The United States is currently on the third line of Turnbull Stakes betting and he is the only horse in this field that is capable of getting close to the ratings that Hartnell has produced in his past two starts. He had no luck whatsoever in the Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes, but he still found the line nicely. I think he will require this run before he is at his peak, which he will need to be to beat a firing Hartnell, but he could go close if the real Hartnell doesn’t turn up.
Our Ivanhowe was scratched from the Underwood Stakes last weekend due to a minor cut. There was plenty to like about his first-up effort in the Makybe Diva Stakes, but he is another horse that will probably need another run under his belt before he is able to perform at his very best. He looks to have found his right price.
Set Square has the chance to return to winning form in the Turnbull Stakes. Photo by: Sarah Ebbett
Set Square is back for another tilt at the Turnbull Stakes after finishing a close third last year. She has been racing well this preparation and she now has a run over 2000 metres under her belt. I think that she can win a race this weekend, but she yet to really show she is capable competing at this level.
You can’t knock a horse for finishing second behind Royal Rapture, but you really need to be winning that race to be any chance in a Turnbull Stakes. He would need to improve his peak rating by several lengths to have any chance of even being in the finish.
There was plenty to like about the Naturalism Stakes performance of Jameka and she is now a genuine Caulfield Cup contender. A race start over 2000 metres is the perfect preparation for the Turnbull Stakes and a repeat of that effort would make her the main danger to Hartnell. She needs the sting out of the track to perform at her best and she should get that on Sunday.
Sofia Rosa is going along fairly, but I don’t think we will see the best of her until she gets up to 2400 metres. I don’t think that she will finish in the placings, but I expect her to find the line strongly in an eye-catching performance.
De Little Engine
De Little Engine will make his Group 1 debut in the Turnbull Stakes. Photo by: Steve Hart
This is a big step-up in class for De Little Engine and he has never shown he is capable of performing at this level.
Second Bullet is in the exact same boat as De Little Engine. Unusual placement.
Raw Impulse has also been included in the acceptances for the Craven Plate, but Australian Bloodstock have indicated that he is likely to remain in Melbourne for the Turnbull Stakes. He was absolutely dominant in the Penang Trophy in Adelaide last start, but he beat a field of walkers and his reputation is bigger than his actual ability warrants.