Merlin gets huge advantage for Friday's Northern Derby

By Michael Guerin

It is advantage Merlin in the early countdown to Friday night’s $135,000 Woodlands Northern Derby after the favourite drew perfectly.

And adding further to the appeal of him getting barrier 2 are key rivals Sherlock and Son Of Mac drawing the second line so having to come from behind the dual Harness Million winner.

Merlin was only third and peaked on his run in the Sires’ Stakes heat won by Sherlock at Alexandra Park last Friday and the winner was clearly the better of the pair on the night, Merlin is likely to improve and has the gate speed to lead from barrier 2.

Even more advantageously if he does lead he would have the option to hand up to hard-running stablemate Sooner The Better (barrier 3) and follow him to the passing lane. If that unfolds it will take a very good performance to beat the favourite.

Merlin and Sooner The Better could be part of a huge night for the Purdon/Phelan stable as they also have major winning chances in the boys and girls Young Guns Finals with four in the Breckon Farms Cardigan Bay Stakes and three fillies in the Crombie Lockwood Delightful Lady Stakes.

Millwood Nike will start red hot as she chases 11 in a row in the Pascoes The Jewellers Northern Oaks while the best may be saved to last of the major events.

The City Of Auckland Free-For-All is shaping as the major lead-up to The Race by Grins with Copy That up against arch rival Self Assured, Akuta and Old Town Road who is fresh-up since his huge Hunter Cup third.

To see Friday's fields click here 

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