Merlin Mustang to be set for Stradbroke Handicap 2013

Sydney gelding Merlin Mustang will make a trip north to the Queensland Winter Carnival where he will aimed at Brisbane’s premier race, Group 1 2013 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m).

It was revealed following Saturday’s impressive one-length win in the Handicap (1400m) at Warwick Farm that the gelding will step up in class this winter to top tier company.

Jockey Brenton Avdulla might not have agreed that the Stradbroke is the ideal target for Merlin Mustang but gave him a glowing endorsement about his chances in Queensland and his ability to tough out a win.

“I’m not sure about the Stradbroke but definitely anything over a mile-plus he can be competitive in Group company,” Avdulla said.

“I just kept improving the tempo and I knew at the top of the straight he was going to try his guts out for me and that’s what he did.”

The result came for Merlin Mustang on the back of a fifth-place finish last month in the Group 2 Villier Stakes.

Trained by Michael Tubman at Kembla Grange, the four-year-old gelding has won six of 17 starts and collected nearly $190,000 in prizemoney.

The Stradbroke Handicap is arguably the biggest race of the 2013 Brisbane Winter Carnival, offering $1 million in prizemoney.

A number of horses have already been declared as targeting the Queensland feature this year.

Warwick Farm trainer David Pfieffer will take recent stable additions Wild And Proud and New Day Rising to Brisbane with the Stradbroke in mind while lightly-raced Queensland gelding The White Hope is another with the Stradbroke in their sights.

The White Hope has won four of five starts since debuting in March including a dominant unbeaten three-start campaign in Brisbane during the spring.

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