Race track return for star three-year-old

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk

Last year’s exciting juvenile Merlin will be looking to resume his winning ways when he kicks off his three-year-old season at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday.

The Art Major colt established a perfect record in his first eight starts, with his victories including the Group 2 Young Guns Cardigan Bay Stakes (1700m) and Listed NZB Standardbred Harness Million 3 – 2YO C & G Mobile Pace (1980m).

His perfect season was brought to an end in his final outing in the Group 1 Sires’ Stakes Final (1980m) at Addington Raceway in November, running a meritorious fourth behind winner Don’t Stop Dreaming.

Trainers Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan have been pleased with the way he has spelled, along with his first public hit-out of the season when winning his workout at Cambridge Raceway last week.

“I am really thrilled to get him back to the races, I am looking forward to him starting on Thursday,” Barry Purdon said.

It will be his only lead-up race before the $200,000 Harness Million at Cambridge in eight days time.

“It would have been nice if he had another trial, but in saying that he has done a bit of work and he shouldn’t be far away from going close to winning. But whatever he does he will be a bit better for it.”

Merlin will be joined in Thursday’s race by stablemate Sooner The Bettor, who takes two consecutive wins into the meeting.

“He is a pretty nice horse as well. He will go well,” Purdon said.

Purdon will take four other runners south to the Auckland Trotting Club meeting, which was transferred to Cambridge Raceway following flood damage to the track at Alexandra Park.

Escape The Pace will represent the stable in the Dunstan Speedfeed Summer Series Handicap Trot (2700m) and Purdon is hoping she brings her manners this week.

“She has strung together a few wins and had a little gallop last time. I don’t know why but they trotters do that sometimes,” Purdon said.

“She has trained on well this week and seems well.”

Group One performer Major Perry will make his New Zealand race night return in the Dunstan Speedfeed Summer Series Mobile Pace (2200m) following a five-race Australian campaign late last year which garnered two winning cheques.

“He gets in with a junior claim, so Crystal (Hackett) is driving him. He went to the trials with Merlin at Cambridge last Saturday and they finished together,” Purdon said.

“Being a stallion, he would have benefitted from another trial, but that is just the way it has been with the weather up here.

“He won’t be too far away.”

The stable will also line-up Stacie Marie and Supa Dupa Luca in the Woodlands Stud – “We Sell Winners” Mobile Pace (2200m).




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