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Coolmore Stud Stakes winning colt Merchant Navy will take on the older sprinters back down the Flemington straight second-up this autumn in the Newmarket Handicap 2018.
Caulfield horseman Aaron Purcell is hoping to secure a Royal Ascot bid mid-year in England with his son of Fastnet Rock, but will first chase another Flemington Group 1 sprint with the three-year-old.
“Merchant Navy spelled great … he’s a little bit bigger and stronger and possibly a little bit more colty,” Purcell told Racing Victoria.
“I think what he showed in the Coolmore is that he is a high-class sprinting colt, so we are going to follow down that path.”
The bay boasts an outstanding record of five wins from six starts to date and is already a very valuable stallion prospect following his elite level spring success.
His only loss was at Rosehill when 10th behind upset winner Trapeze Artist in last September’s Group 1 $1 million Golden Rose Stakes (1400m).
Merchant Navy atoned off a freshen-up, returning to Melbourne on VRC Derby Day during the Cup Carnival to narrowly defeat Invincible Star (2nd) with Formality third in the Group 1 $1 million Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m).
First-up this Melbourne Festival of Racing, Purcell has Merchant Navy scheduled for a home run at Caulfield Racecourse in the Group 2 $200,000 Schweppes Rubiton Stakes (1100m).
“We are looking to kick off in the Rubiton Stakes in about a month’s time,” Purcell confirmed.
From there the youngster will be thrown straight into the deep end returning to the iconic ‘Straight Six’ on Super Saturday, March 10, for the Group 1 $1.25 million Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m).
His performance in that will go a long way to determining whether connections head overseas with Merchant Navy.
“He’ll run second up in the Newmarket and then if he’s looking like he’s going well enough here, then Royal Ascot is still definitely in his sights,” Purcell said.
“I’m sure we’re going to have a fun time in the next few months.”
Three-year-olds have a strong recent record in the Newmarket Handicap results over the past two decades including four wins since 2008 most recently with Brazen Beau in 2015.
Hot favourite in pre-field Newmarket Handicap betting at bookmakers around the country is The Everest winner Redzel.
Team Snowden’s super sprinter saluted at the track and distance in the spring’s Group 1 Darley Classic (1200m), but he is unlikely to head to the Newmarket Handicap due to the conditions of the race.
Instead co-trainer Peter Snowden confirmed a first-up run in the Group 1 $750,000 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) on February 7 before a plan is put in place to have Redzel in Sydney on April 7 for the weight-for-age Group 1 $2.5 million TJ Smith Stakes (1200m).
The other top fancy all-in Newmarket Handicap odds is Merchant Navy.
To get behind Merchant Navy over the Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival at the right price visit our preferred sportsbook Ladbrokes.com.au.
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