Hartnell (Image: Racing Photos)
Saturday's Group 1 program at Flemington shapes as the ultimate spring entree with the current favourites for the Caulfield Cup, Emirates Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Guineas and Thousand Guineas entered to run.
The bolstered $750,000 PFD Food Services Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) has attracted a total of 18 nominations - 14 of which are G1 winners - including Godolphin star Hartnell and five-time Group 1 winner Black Heart Bart, as well as Guineas winners Inference and Hey Doc.
Gailo Chop, Humidor, Jon Snow and Yankee Rose also look set to take their place in the field while Sydney stars Foxplay and Le Romain are dual nominated, with an option to take on champion mare Winx in the G1 George Main Stakes (1600m) at Randwick.
Racing Victoria's Executive General Manager - Racing, Greg Carpenter, said it shaped as the strongest edition of the PFD Food Services Makybe Diva Stakes in recent memory.
"There are 18 entries and 14 of them are individual Group 1 winners so it's going to be a really hot race," Carpenter said.
"It's going to be one of the strongest Makybe Diva Stakes I've ever seen and of course this year the prizemoney goes to $750,000.
"We haven't seen Hartnell since he resumed and won the P.B. Lawrence Stakes so he'll be coming into the race fresh off a four-week break and then you've got the horses coming out of the Memsie Stakes two weeks ago."
The Flemington undercard includes the G2 Danehill Stakes (1200m) for the three-year-olds, which shapes as a mouth-watering clash between unbeaten colt Jukebox and Blue Diamond winner Catchy, as well as the Listed Exford Plate (1400m) which will see the resumption of Tony McEvoy's spruik colt Royal Symphony.
Defending Emirates Melbourne Cup winner Almandin is expected to run second-up in the JRA Trophy over 2500m, where he is one of nine entries for trainer Robert Hickmott, while Carpenter is also anticipating a heavyweight clash in the G2 Bobbie Lewis Quality, a race that has received entries from the world's highest-rated sprinter Chautauqua, Lexus Newmarket Handicap winner Redkirk Warrior and Lindsey Smith's Railway Stakes winner Scales of Justice.
"It will be great to see if Almandin can come on from his first-up second to Pacodali at Moonee Valley," Carpenter added.
"We've also got the Bobbie Lewis Quality, which is a Group 2 and shapes as an extraordinary race with Chautauqua entered, Lucky Hussler and we'll see for the first time Scales Of Justice, the superstar from Perth.
"And we've got Redkirk Warrior, the Newmarket Handicap winner there to resume as well."
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