Bucther says Merlin could have won by more

by Michael Guerin

Don’t be fooled by the small margin Merlin scraped home by in Friday night’s $135,000 Woodlands Derby.

Because driver Zachary Butcher is adamant the quality colt could have won the classic by a lot more had he wanted.

“That is just him, he doesn’t like running away from horses and just switches off,” said Butcher after his first win in the great race.

“When we got the passing lane he put half a length on them but then he pulled up. It is not like he is not trying, it is more he just relaxes when he knows he is home.

“But the second horse still went very good so take nothing away from him.”

That second horse was Son Of Mac who provides one of the early surprises in the race when he was launched by Tony Herlihy to challenge the hot favourite in front, Merlin having caused his own surprise when he pulled out of the trail behind stablemate Sooner The Better to re-take the lead.

So there was plenty of early pressure in the Derby and once Son Of Mac wrested the lead he was also attacked briefly by Sherlock, who lost his lead bid and that left the leader a sitting duck for Merlin, who always looked the winner after that all unfolded.

Sinbad was a huge third while Sooner The Better fought on for fourth, Sherlock dropping out late after sitting parked.

The win was Merlin’s 10th from 13 starts and he still has so much three-year-old racing in front of him, some of it possibly in Queensland, the home state of owner Dean Shannon.

“At this stage we are looking at taking him,” says legendary trainer Barry Purdon, who trains Merlin in partnership with Scott Phelan.

“Obviously Dean is from there and the next Derby we have here isn’t until the end of the year.

“So we’d like to take him to Queensland and a race like the Rising Sun would interest us as well.”

Merlin is a son of Art Major from the Bettors Delight mare Imaginary Bet and was bred by one of the new elite operations of New Zealand harness racing breeding in Taffy Ltd, the impressive boutique breeding business run by Todd Anderson.

The Derby result also showed the flow on effects of the Young Gun series, with Merlin the star of that series last season but Son Of Mac also racing in the early heats and franking its form.

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