WARRNAMBOOL based jockey Declan Bates rode Hartnell, the challenger to superstar mare Winx in the $3 million Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on Saturday, to his maiden victory at Wales in the United Kingdom in September 2013.
Bookmakers rate Hartnell a $3 chance behind hot favourite Winx to win Australia’s greatest weight-for-age race over 2040 metres. The six-year-old is $5 favourite for the $6million Melbourne Cup on November 1.
Bates, who was suspended on a careless riding charge at Donald last Friday will watch the Cox Plate from his Warrnambool home. The 28-year-old Irish born jockey still remembers Hartnell’s maiden victory over 1600 metres.
“Hartnell was trained by Mark Johnston at the time,” Bates said. “Hartnell won the race by four lengths. He was a big raw strong two-old when I won on him. It was only his third start. He impressed me I've followed his career closely but I never thought he would turn out to be second favourite in a Cox Plate and favourite for the Melbourne Cup. I just wish I was still riding him. It's really funny that we've both finished up in Australia.”
Bates took his Australia winning tally to 43 winners when he rode a treble at Avoca’s non-TAB meeting last Saturday.
“It's really tough riding here because there are so many good jockeys but I'm loving my time in Warrnambool,” he said. My good mate Shane Jackson encouraged us to move over here – we’ve been based here for a year. I'm lucky I have support from the local trainers.”