Wizards set to continue magic at Auckland

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk

Connections of undefeated two-year-old Merlin are hoping the magic continues with their colt at Alexandra Park on Thursday night.

The Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan-trained juvenile has been a revelation in his freshman season, winning all five of his starts to date, including the Group 2 Young Guns Cardigan Bay Stakes (1700m).

The son of Art Major resumed with a pleasing three-quarter of a length victory at Alexandra Park a fortnight ago and he will be out to repeat the performance in the Sweet Lou At Woodlands Tender Closes 20 Oct 2YO Mobile Pace (1700m).

He will start from the outside of the front-row in the six-horse field where he has been opened as a $1.40 favourite by TAB bookmakers.

“It is only a small field but it is a pretty good field too,” Purdon said.

“It will just depend how the race is run but he seems in good shape, he is pretty fit and has kicked on a bit since his first-up run.”

Merlin is ramping up for an exciting spring that will likely include a trip south to Addington Raceway for the Listed Harness Million 2YO Colt and Gelding (1980m) and the Group 1 Sires’ Stakes Colt and Gelding 2YO Final (1980m).

“He has got a Sires’ Stakes heat at Cambridge in a couple of weeks’ time and then he will go down to Christchurch for the sales series race,” Purdon said.

Merlin was purchased out of Broadfield Lodge’s 2021 New Zealand Standardbred National Yearling Sale draft by Montana Park for $120,000.

The Queensland operation also purchased Gandalf from the same draft for $58,000 and he is set to follow the same path as his stablemate, beginning with the same race on Thursday.

The son of Captaintreacherous won on debut at Alexandra Park in July before finishing runner-up a fortnight later, and fourth behind Merlin earlier this month.

“He has stepped up lately as well, we are pleased with him,” Purdon said.

The pair will likely be joined on the float trip to Christchurch later in the spring by eight-win trotter Son Of Patrick.

The four-year-old gelding finished seventh first-up at Alexandra Park a fortnight ago and his trainers are expecting an improved performance in the Aristocrat Technologies Handicap Trot (2200m) on Thursday.

“He would have taken a lot out of that last run. He probably needed it quite badly. He has trained on well since his last race and should go okay,” Purdon said.

“He will probably go down south with Merlin and Gandalf. There are usually plenty of trots at Addington he would be eligible for.”

Th Clevedon barn is also looking forward to trotting juveniles Halberg and Southern Diamond in the What The Hill NI Juvenile Trotting Championship Mobile Trot (1700m).

“They are both nice, young trotters,” Purdon said. “Halberg went pretty well last time (third), he was a long way off the leaders when he settled down but got home pretty well.

“Southern Diamond is pretty smart. We just need to get him away quietly early.”

Purdon and Phelan will also have a two-pronged attack in the Have A Drink At Our Land Is Alive – Cordis Mobile Pace (2200m) courtesy of Bettor Listen and last start winner Montana DJ.

“Montana DJ has trained on well and has taken plenty of benefit from that first-up run. He is one on the second line, but Zac (Butcher, driver) usually finds a way out somewhere,” Purdon said.

“Bettor Listen has drawn out wide (7). He is tough and tries hard, he is always thereabouts.”

Stablemate Raven Banner will resume in the Magness Sound – 70 Year Partnership With ATC Handicap Pace (2200m) from behind the 20m tape.

“It is only 2200m so he will want to get away quickly,” Purdon said. “It is not a bad field but as long as he gets away cleanly, I am sure he will be in it.”

Ultimate Missile and Major Perry will round out the stable’s representation in the Steinlager Ultra ow Carb Mobile Pace (1700m).

“Major Perry was impressive (when winning) last time,” Purdon said.

“For his first start back, 2:38 was a pretty good run. He has come back in great order that horse, I am looking forward to seeing him go around and seeing what he can do.”

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