The 2015 Australian Guineas is the major autumn target for Merion, but trainer Mike Moroney believes that the talented gelding is still forward enough to win the Hill Plate (1300m) at Sandown tomorrow.
Merion was sent to the spelling paddock after he finished a luckless sixth in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) on October 11 and failed to fire in the Group 3 Caulfield Classic (2000m) a week later, but he has been back in work for a couple of months and ready for his return to racing.
Moroney told Racing Ahead that Merion did not put on a great deal of condition during his break from racing, but he said that he was still happy with the condition of the O’Reilly gelding ahead of his return to racing this weekend.
“He is forward enough for his first run, but he just has a bit of a tricky draw,” Moroney said.
“He has done very well and this is the start of what will hopefully be a good campaign.
“He didn’t put on a lot of weight, but that isn’t a bad thing.
“I am a great believer that once they get to certain age if they carry a lot of condition you have to work it off them.
“Certainty when they are younger they need it, but as they get older I would rather see them come in on the lighter side and work it on them.”
Merion has shown a degree of tactical versatility during his racing career, but he has generally produced his best performance when he was settled towards the tail of the field and he did not impress when he took up the running in the Caulfield Classic.
Moroney said that he will be happy to see jockey Steven Arnold give Merion the chance to settle when he jumps from barrier eight in the Hill Plate before hitting the line strongly.
“We will have to go back from that draw and get a bit of cover,” Arnold said.
“He is better if he does get some cover.”
Moroney revealed at the end of last year that the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington on March 7 would be the major Melbourne Festival Of Racing target for Merion and Moroney confirmed that the three-year-old would head to the Group 1 event after contesting the Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on February 21.
Merion is currently available at odds of $12 to make a winning start to his autumn campaign.