Contrasting build-ups for star three-year-olds

By Michael Guerin

Star northern three-year-old Merlin is nearly ready to resume his battles with Don’t Stop Dreaming even after missing a workout last weekend.

But he faces going into the next round of their arch rivalry without a race under his belt whereas Don’t Stop Dreaming will be back on the track at Addington this Friday.

Merlin was down to trial at Pukekohe on Saturday but senior trainer Barry Purdon opted to wait a week.

“There was nothing wrong with him we just thought a good hit out this weekend was better for him,” says Purdon, who trains the Northern Derby winner with Scott Phelan.

“We gave him a really good run at home just over a week ago so he is on target and we are very happy with him.

“So he will trial this week and then go straight into the race at Addington on October 13.”

That is the $110,000 Vero Flying Stakes at Addington’s mega meeting, the same meeting at which he beat Don’t Stop Dreaming in the Harness Million 2-y-o last season.

Merlin looks certain to be going into that clash at a slight fitness disadvantage but his main aim in the New Zealand Derby at December 10 and he could meet Don’t Stop Dreaming at their next lead-up race too.

After the Flying Stakes, Merlin will be aimed at the Junior Free-For-All on Cup Day at Addington which would seem to be one of the few races in November suited to Don’t Stop Dreaming as well.

“So we will definitely get two races into him down there before the Derby,” says Purdon.

Don’t Stop Dreaming is the $1.80 favourite for the New Zealand Derby, with Merlin at $3.60.

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