Merlin magic in $1m Race by Grins

By Jonny Turner

Merlin was more than magical in his national record-smashing win in the $1,000,000 The Race by Grins at Cambridge tonight.

The brilliant four-year-old’s star shone even brighter than ever before when he downed a classy field in emphatic style.

Merlin drew outside his arch-rival Don’t Stop Dreaming which set him a huge task to win according to most of the pre-race hype.

But it proved to be up a task the Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan trained star was well and truly up for.

“He is a beast, what a thrill,” driver Zachary Butcher said.

“It might be too early to say it, but that might be my biggest thrill in racing.”

Merlin blasted forward early in the feature, but he and Butcher couldn’t take the early lead from Don’t Stop Dreaming and Natalie Rasmussen.

Butcher soon found a spot in the one-one for his four-year-old and when it was time to launch his winning run, Merlin went into overdrive.

“They haven’t been coming from wide tonight,” the reinsman said.

“When I pulled him out at the 300m he was just trucking.”

“He felt like a different beast and he just keeps getting better and better.”

“We had intentions to try to lead but Nat was just too quick out for us.”

“We had to adapt and change plans.”

“I have got to give all credit to Barry, Scotty and the team.”

Merlin stopped the clock in a brilliant 2.35.1 time, taking 0.3sec off the national all-comers record for 2200m.

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