Group 1 winning three year old Merchant Navy can set sail for Royal Ascot in England if he can beat the older horses in today’s Group 1 $1.25m Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington.
Merchant Navy is holding his spot as the $5.50 favourite for the Newmarket Handicap at Ladbrokes.com.au and the Coolmore owned Fastnet Rock colt has already won down the Flemington straight when he beat the three year olds in the Group 1 $1m Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) on the first day of the 2017 Melbourne Cup Carnival.
Merchnat Navy has had one run back from a spell for a third to Super Cash in the Group 2 $200,000 Schweppes Rubiton Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield on February 10 and trainer Aaron Purcell said that a win or a very good run against the older sprinters today will be enough to book a spot on the plane for England.
“If he wins or runs well, I’m sure the Ascot trip will be spoken about and it’s definitely on the cards,” Purcell told racing.com.
“I think he’s spot on. He galloped on Tuesday at Sandown and it’s probably the best he’s galloped this preparation. He looks terrific and his weight’s great.”
“He galloped over 1000 metres. He had a lead horse and a horse alongside him just to keep him focussed. He was really strong to the line, ran some time and really pulled up well.
“Mark Zahra galloped him and said he’s spot-on so as far as we are concerned we think we’ve got him going as good as we can going into Saturday.”
Hong Kong based jockey Chad Schofield get the ride on Merchant Navy who only has to carry 52kg in the Newmarket Handicap, which Purcell said is a huge advantage for the three year old.
“His weight of 52 kilograms is a weight he’s never seen before and in those big handicaps being down near the bottom of the weights is an advantage,” Purcell said.
Rich Charm is on the second line of betting just ahead of last year’s Newmarket Handicap winner Redkirk Warrior at $8, Booker at $8.50 and Brave Smash at $9.
Redkirk Warrior has been lumped with the top weight of 57.5kg and is one of five runners from the Lindsay Park stable and will be up against his stablemates Catchy ($11), Thronum ($12), So Ci Bon ($21) and Fastnet Tempest ($21).