Opening 200m key to Merlin's Taylor Mile chances

By Michael Guerin

Barry Purdon has been training great horses long enough to know tonight’s $110,000 Dawson Harford Taylor Mile could look very good, or very bad, for Merlin after just 200m.

Purdon and training partner Scott Phelan have three reps in the Group 1 sprint at Alexandra Park but most eyes will be on Merlin, the last-start $1million Race by Grins winner and maybe the best pacer in the country.

Merlin has drawn one on the second line in the glamour sprint and if the horse he follows out, Republican Party, holds the lead and Merlin is sitting in the trail after 200m this is his race to lose.

But if Republican Party gets crossed, most likely by Kango or ironically Merlin’s stablemate Sooner The Better, then Merlin could be locked away three back on the markers waiting for a gap. Gaps rarely appear in major Alexandra Park mile races.

“That about sums it up,” says Purdon.

“We couldn’t be happier with him and the way he has come through the Race by Grins, he just seems to handling it all perfectly.

“But for this race so much depends on what happens around him and in front of him.

“I think Republican Party has some gate speed and being a mile I am sure he will want to use it but there is a big difference between being in the trail and three back and needing luck.”

Purdon thinks Sooner The Better also find himself in a sticky position tonight because he could burn plenty of energy early and set the race up for a swooper but if he goes back he has no chance.

The Taylor Mile is that type of race, often has been, with those in the marker pegs dominant unless somebody does something stupid and even though Kango will be long odds to win if he leads he could easily pace 1:52 and those coming wide will be flat keeping up.

The most obvious swooper is Don’t Stop Dreaming, who nearly ran down a parked out Merlin over a mile two starts ago but was clearly outgunned by him in the Grins. His trainer Mark Purdon says Don’t Stop Dreaming is working well and is still the stable’s No.1 seed over Self Assured, even though the latter has barrier 2.

“So much will depend on the early pressure for them both,” says Mark, who is Barry’s brother.

The problem with betting against the glamour four-year-olds is nailing the horse who can beat them with all the likely options having doubts: Self Assured (age), Republican Party (form), Speak The Truth and Better Eclipses (bad draws).

Later in the night two old trotting mates from Victoria will resume a long forgotten rivalry in the $60,000 Lone Star Alexandra Park Lyell Creek Trot.

Just Believe is the undoubted king of Trans Tasman trotting but five years ago he had to bow twice to race rival tonight All Cashed Up, who was a star three-year-old when he was trained in Victoria.

All Cashed Up was sent to New Zealand because he trotted better right-handed and has returned to something like his best form just in time for his first meeting in 18 months with his old adversary.

The problem for All Cashed Up, and all of Just Believe’s rivals tonight, is the champ has gone up about three new levels in the last two years since joining the Tubbs/Sugars stable.

So he should join a very short list of great Australian trotters who have won on their Alexandra Park debut.

Michael Guerin's picks for tonight :

R4: Paramount Kiwi (3) should lead and win again with Princess Sadie (4) the only real danger.

R6: There wasn’t much between stablemates Youretheonethatiwant (2) and I’m Sandra Dee (5) last Friday but their stable is confident the former is the better.

R7: Really tricky as tactics will dictate result. If Merlin trails he probably wins, if he doesn’t Don’t Stop Dreaming is the best swooper. But a “be careful” race.

R9: Just Believe should win so take the $1.25 as your anchor in all multis.

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