Unbeaten Melbourne colt Merchant Navy will get a sweet run from barrier two in the Group 1 $1m De Bortoli Wines Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill on Saturday.
Trainer Ciaron Maher can see jockey Mark Zahra settling Merchant Navy close to the fence and positioning him where he likes just off the pace.
“I don’t know how the race is going to map out but certainly, on face value, I’m very happy to be in barrier two,” Maher told The Daily Telegraph.
“It will be nice to get a bit of cover and Mark (Zahra) can assess when they come across as to where he wants to be.”
Maher can’t fault Merchant Navy’s Golden Rose preparation and the Fastnet Rock colt heads to Sydney with a record of four wins from four race starts, his latest with Zahra in the saddle in the Group 3 $150,000 H.D.F McNeil Stakes (1200m) on his home track at Caulfield on September 2.
Merchant Navy is listed at $8.50 for the Golden Rose at Ladbrokes.com.au and Maher said he is not sure how the Melbourne form is going to line up with the $2 favourite Menari’s Sydney form.
The Gerald Ryan trained Menari has been brilliant at his two runs this campaign at Rosehill with a win in the Listed $150,000 Smithfield RSL Club Rosebud (1100m) on August 12 followed by a win in the Group 2 $200,000 The Run To The Rose (1200m) on September 9.
“I’m very happy with our horse and I wouldn’t be swapping him,” Maher said.
“I’m sure Gerald Ryan would be saying the same about Menari. I don’t know how you line them up and there would be some form line somewhere.
“I’m not too worried about it and I’m just trying to have our bloke as best we can. He has travelled up well and he travelled up as a two-year-old when he was an emergency for the Sires’ and it’s always a bonus when they have done it before.”
Merchant Navy has had some practice in running the Sydney way of going with several gallops when he travelled there in preparation for the Group 1 $1m Inglis Sires’ (1400m) at Randwick during the 2017 Sydney Autumn Carnival.
But he was made an emergency and failed to gain a place in the field in the Inglis Sires’ and returned home to Caulfield without having a run.
Maher has prepared the colt for the reverse way of going with several gallops in the clockwise direction at his home track at Caulfield plus a couple of gallops since arriving in Sydney.
“He has been up here and he has had a couple of gallops the Sydney way of going,” Maher said.
“We gallop at Caulfield maybe once every four to six weeks the opposite direction and we work the opposite direction every second day at Caulfield, so he should be pretty ambidextrous.”
“He worked (Tuesday) morning (at Rosehill) and sat off one and galloped nicely to the line. It shouldn’t be (an issue) and if you’re drawn in and get a bit of cover it is easier than being drawn wide and skirting off the track.”
Josh Parr will be on Menari again after partnering him at his last two starts but will have to be at the top of his game after the Snitzel colt drew barrier eleven in the fourteen horse Golden Rose field.