Trainer Michael Moroney believes that the 2014 Henry Bucks Stakes is a fork in the road run for Merion and he wants to see the talented gelding stamp himself as a genuine contender for the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) when he contests the Listed event at Flemington on Saturday.
Moroney has always believed that Merion is capable of winning at Group 1 level and selected the Caulfield Guineas as the major 2014 Spring Racing Carnival target for the son of O’Reilly, but he told RSN that races like the Group 3 Caulfield Classic (2000m) and Group 1 Victoria Derby (2400m) are other possible options for the three-year-old.
“It is a bit of a fork in the road run for him now because we have the Guineas coming up, which was going to be his main aim,” Moroney said.
“Saturday is a big run for him because he has got to really front up and show that he is a Caulfield Guineas horse because you have the different path to take now with the race worth three quarters of a million.
“I would say that a mile and a quarter would be his ideal trip, but we will learn a bit more about him on the way through.”
Merion scored two wins from as many starts as a two-year-old and returned to racing with a credible fourth behind Rich Enuff in the Listed McKenzie Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on August 23.
The promising gelding never looked particularly comfortable on the tight-turning Moonee Valley circuit and Moroney is confident that he will produce an improved effort when he steps up to 1400 metres at Flemington this weekend.
“I was really happy with his run in the McKenzie considering it was his first time around the Valley and he drew badly,” Moroney said.
“Steve just had to use him up for about a furlong of the race and it was the quickest furlong of the race between the half mile and the 600.
“He just wobbled on the corner, but balanced up and got to the line really well.
“What we took out of it is that he does want to go further, which is what we thought.”
Merion is set to face a strong field in the Henry Bucks Stakes, with the likes of McNeil Stakes winner Chivalry, talented filly Veuvelicious, promising colt Zebulon and last start winner Divan included in the nominations for the Listed event.