Michael Moroney knows the 1200m of Saturday’s 2014 McKenzie Stakes at Moonee Valley is going to be short of his galloper Merion’s best but is still confident of a nice resuming run from the Caulfield Guineashope.
One of 26 three-year-old colts and geldings nominated for the $120,000 Listed Essendon Nissan McKenzie Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley this weekend, O’reilly gelding Merion looks one of the top hopes.
He is out to defend his flawless record having won both of his starts so far backing up from a Bendigo win in late March to win the Listed ANZAC Day Stakes (1410m) by half a length over Light Up Manhattan at Flemington on April 25.
A nice hitout last Friday morning back at Flemington saw Merion cross a length off the flying Minaj over 800m down the straight, an effort showing Moroney the up-and-comer was race fit and ready to kick off his Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival campaign.
“He’s a lovely horse and he’s really matured as well with his break,” he told AAP.
“To the eye he looks a better horse.”
The master horseman then will accept for Merion first-up in the McKenzie Stakes with an eye on a second-up run in the $175,000 Group 3 Caulfield Guineas Prelude (1400m) on Sunday September 28.
Of course the horse’s first major aim is then the $1 million Group 1 BECK Caulfield Guineas (1600m) at Caulfield Racecourse on October 11, Moroney also not ruling out a $1 million Group 1 AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) shot at Flemington on November 1.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Last year’s Caulfield Guineas winner Long John won the Group 1 on the back of a similar lead-up to that which Moroney has scheduled for Merion.
The then Peter Snowden-trained son of Street Cry won his opening three career starts last autumn including the corresponding Bendigo race Merion won this year and a four length effort in the ANZAC Day Stakes.
Those came before a first-up third behind Cauthen and subsequent Cox Plate winner Shamus Award in the McKenzie.
Long John then won the Listed Henry Bucks Best Dressed Stakes (1400m) at Flemington a fortnight later by a tidy margin before a Caulfield Guineas Prelude third to Éclair Big Bang one run before his half length Caulfield Guineas success.
This year Merion pays $26 in the futures Caulfield Guineas odds at Ladbrokes.com.au, a price that will firm if he retains his undefeated status on Saturday.
Also at $26 to win the Caulfield Guineas this year is the Leon & Troy Corstens-trained Awesome Rock.
A son of Fastnet Rock, the colt has won one of his four starts to date and has had two Group 2 runs.
The first was a nice second behind Zululand in the Group 2 VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on March 8 before a disappointing ninth in his Sydney debut a fortnight later at Rosehill behind Ghibellines in the Group 2 Todman Stakes (1200m).
The shortest priced McKenzie Stakes hopeful in Caulfield Guineas betting meanwhile is Divan for owner Lloyd Williams, the Zabeel colt last seen running an eye-catching third behind Merion on debut in the ANZAC Day Stakes.
Other well liked Guineas hopes racing on Saturday include Clinton McDonald’s unraced High Chaparral colt Castelo and the Peter Moody-trained son of Written Tycoon Caveka who won on debut at Geelong on August 8 both at $34.
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