2014 Caulfield Guineas contender Merion is set to start his 2014 Spring Racing Carnival campaign in the Listed McKenzie Stakes(1200m) at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
Merion made his racing debut with a comfortable win in the First Light Racing Handicap (1300m) at Bendigo on March 27 and he was sent to the spelling paddock to begin preparations for a big campaign after he defeated Light Up Manhattan and Divan to win the Listed Anzac Day Stakes (1410m) at Flemington on April 25.
Trainer Mike Moroney said earlier this month that Merion was his leading contender for the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) at Caulfield on October 11 and the veteran trainer is looking forward to seeing the talented three-year-old return to the races, but he admits that the 1200 metres of the McKenzie Stakes may prove a bit too short for the son of O’Reilly.
“His main aim is going to be the Caulfield Guineas and then we’ll just take it from there as to whether we go a bit further,” Moroney told AAP.
“He’s a lovely horse and he’s really matured as well with his break.
“To the eye he looks a better horse.
“He’s bred to get a bit further and Steve (Arnold) said after Friday’s jump-out he was starting to feel like 1200 metres is going to be a bit sharp for him.
“He’s going to want to get to 1400 metres and a mile pretty quickly.”
Merion has been allocated the top weight under the set weights plus penalties conditions of the Mackenzie Stakes and he will carry 56 and a half kilograms, one and a half kilograms more than every other horse in the field, in the $120,000 event on Saturday.
The Mackenzie Stakes has drawn a strong set of nominations; with a number of promising three-year-olds set to start their spring campaigns in the Listed race.
Lloyd Williams-owned Divan made his racing debut with a third place finish behind Merion in the Anzac Day Stakes and has been touted as a contender for both the Caulfield Guineas and Group 1 Victoria Derby (2400m), while Awesome Rock had form around the likes of Veuvelicious and Zululand as a two-year-old.
Lloyd Kennewell already has a leading contender for the Caulfield Guineas in the form of Get The Nod, but has included both Silent Whisper and Sovereign Duke in the McKenzie Stakes nominations.
The McKenzie Stakes was a key form race for the 2013 Spring Racing Carnival; with subsequent Cox Plate and Caulfield Guineas winners Shamus Award and Long John finished in the placings behind talented kiwi galloper Cauthen.