Coolmore Stud Stakes winner Merchant Navy is on course to run in the 2018 Group 1 $1.25m Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on March 10.
Trainer Aaron Purcell was more than happy with Merchant Navy’s win in an 800m Caulfield jump out this morning and the Fastnet Rock colt is very close to a return to the racetrack.
Merchany Navy was spelled after winning the Group 1 $1m Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) down the Flemington straight on the first day of four day 2017 Melbourne Cup Carnival.
Purcell has two options for Merchant Navy’s first run back for the 2018 Autumn Carnival and will choose his first up run in either the Group 2 $200,000 Schweppes Rubiton Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield on February 10 or in the Group 1 $750,000 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) at Flemington the following Saturday.
“This morning was his first solid hit-out and he went terrific,” Purcell told racing.com.
“He’s a horse that is very casual around home and when you don’t ask much of him, he doesn’t deliver much.
“Being a colt, our job is to make him a more valuable colt so the Newmarket will be his main aim this autumn.
“He’ll probably go there second-up and we’ll either go to the Rubiton or the Lightning first-up.”
An overseas campaign is also on the cards for Merchant Navy and if the colt performs up to expectations during the Melbourne Autumn Carnival, connections will consider heading to England to run in the Group 1 £600,000 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1200m) at Royal Ascot in June.
The lightly raced Merhchant Navy is the winner of five of his six race starts with prizemoney earnings of $809,450.