A capacity field of sixteen fillies will line up...
A capacity field of 16 three-year-olds plus one emergency accepted for the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) on Wednesday morning, including Michael Moroney’s Merion.
The gelding was sitting at number 20 on the ballot but managed to sneak into the field due to some good fortune. Moroney had nominated Merion for the Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m), running in Sydney on the same day, as a precaution but Flemington was always his aim.
Merion has won two of his three starts at the track – the Listed Anzac Day Stakes (1410m) and Listed Living Legends Stakes (1400m) – and will have a fitness advantage when he lines up against the likes of Wandjina, Kermadec, and Petrology on Saturday.
“He’s won two stakes races at Flemington before so ideally we wanted to run him in the Guineas here,” Moroney told Sky Racing.
Merion is a $26 hopeful in the Australian Guineas betting at Ladbrokes.com.au but his trainer is confident the gelding will be at his best on Saturday with two runs already under his belt this campaign. Steve Arnold will return as jockey and the pair will jump from barrier 12.
Following a three month spell, Merion resumed on February 7 in the William Hill Plate (1300m) at Sandown. The gelding was wide early before settling outside the leader. He travelled along at a very steady pace, got a narrow lead at the 300m and battled on for a minor placing.
14 days later the gelding lined up in the Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) at Flemington. He was midfield on the rails before easing out wide around the turn. He tried hard but never looked like winning, finishing two and a half lengths off the winner in fourth place.
“Steve hopped off him last time and one of the reasons he gave for his defeat was that he thought he came to the end of it in the last one hundred (metres),” Moroney said.
“He’s still on the way up. We just thought the way we had to ride him last time from the draw didn’t quite work out.
“He should strip as fit as we can get him for Saturday.”
Merion’s performance in the 2015 Australian Guineas will determine whether Moroney takes the gelding to Sydney next month for The Championships. He is nominated for the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) and Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m), which are both running at Randwick on April 4, as well as the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) the following week.
Moroney also has the option to keep the gelding fresh and head north to Brisbane during the winter.
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