Merlin puts on a magical show at Cambridge
By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
The Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan team are experiencing a golden run of late and are looming as a force to be reckoned with when they head south with half a dozen runners in the coming weeks.
Five members of their barn sealed their tickets south at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday night, led by Merlin, who is proving to be one of the most exciting juveniles in the country.
The Art Major colt had won all his previous six outings at Alexandra Park, so his trainers were looking forward to testing him left-handed at Cambridge before he heads south for loftier targets.
He was taken back early from his outside draw in the Woodlands Stud Sires’ Stakes C&G Heat 2 Mobile Pace (1700m) by driver Zachary Butcher and settled towards the rear of the field.
Butcher kept a cool head and bided his time before launching his charge three-wide at the 400m mark. He was left to do a power of work when entering the home straight but showed his class to reel in his opposition and win by half a length over Seve, extending his unbeaten streak to seven.
His conditioners had every faith in their charge and while he had the field before him turning for home, Purdon was confident of a positive result.
“He sat back and hadn’t done a lot at that stage from his bad draw, which he had to go back from,” Purdon said.
“I was still reasonably confident at the 400m when Zac came out with him because he has got that bit of brilliance, it was just a matter of having to pick them up.”
Purdon has taken a lot of confidence from Merlin’s stellar performance going left-handed, putting him in good stead for his stakes assignments at Addington Raceway in the coming months.
“I think he will improve as far as his steering goes, I don’t think he was absolutely perfect tonight,” Purdon said.
“He will benefit greatly from the left-handed run tonight and we can work a bit harder on that.
“He certainly pleased with what he did tonight.”
Stablemate Gandalf galloped over the line when running out of clear room and Purdon said he has pulled up well from the race.
“He just ran out of room, but he has come through the race well. I will talk to the owner but he will probably head south as well,” Purdon said.
Later on the card, Advance Party was just pipped by Group One performer Kahlua Flybye in the Dunstan Horsefeeds Sires’ Stakes 2YO Fillies Heat 1 Mobile Pace (1700m).
“She is a class filly,” Purdon said. “For her third start at a tote meeting it was a really good effort. It was a 1:53 mile rate, so we can’t complain.
“She will keep on improving as we go on I am sure.”
The stable kicked off the meeting in perfect fashion, recording the quinella in the Lone Star Sires’ Stakes Prelude Mobile Trot (1700m) courtesy of Southern Diamond and Halberg.
“It was good to get the quinella. They are two nice two-year-olds and they will head south for the sales series,” Purdon said.
The Clevedon barn is building an ominous arsenal for their southern raid and Purdon can’t wait to see what his team can do at the business end of spring.
“We are looking forward to heading south. It is nice to have some nice young horses,” he said.