Merchant Navy will head to the 2017 Golden Rose in Sydney in three weeks following his impressive win in the McNeil Stakes at Caulfield this afternoon.
Merchant Navy was well-backed heading into the McNeil Stakes following an unbeaten campaign as a two-year-old and the betting support proved to be justified.
Mark Zahra settled Merchant Navy in the second half of the field, but he tracked into the race nicely and showed a very impressive turn-of-foot when asked for an extra effort.
Booker showed a nice kick at the top of the straight, but Merchant Navy was far too strong and he delivered Mark Zahra a very early treble.
Zahra was quick to pay credit to the acceleration of Merchant Navy and he believes that the son of Fastnet Rock could be an ideal Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas contender.
“He has no early speed, but it worked out good because they went too quick and I was able to get off the fence,” Zahra said.
“I found the right part of the track.
“He is still learning because he wanted to lay in and when he got to the front he wanted to go to the inside, so there is a fair bit of improvement there.
“He would have to be close to Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas favourtism.”
Ciaron Maher was confident that Merchant Navy would make a winning return to the races, but he was clearly relieved to see the three-year-old get the job done in the McNeil Stakes.
Maher revealed that Merchant Navy would have his next race start in the Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens in three weeks before he returns to Melbourne for the Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas.
“He is a very exciting colt and he has a great record,” Maher said.
“You love to see them resume like that – he put the writing on the wall with his trials and the way he had furnished.
“He was very relaxed going down to the start and that is great signs for the future because he was a raw colt that wanted to get on with it a little bit as a two-year-old.
“Now he has furnished into a more rounded racehorse.
“It will be three weeks now into the Golden Rose before he comes back down here for the Guineas.”
Booker was gallant in second and co-trainer Simon Zahra confirmed that she would head towards the Group 1 Thousand Guineas (1600m).