Local galloper Zahspeed remains the solid...
Five-year old mare Merriest is not only aiming for her first career win at Flemington on Saturday, she’s also aiming for a first career Group 2 victory in the 1400m Let’s Elope Stakes.
Trainer Danny O’Brien will be hoping for back-to-back wins as the daughter of Denman resumes following a win at Moonee Valley over the same distance three weeks ago.
Opening at $9.00 odds with Ladbrokes.com.au, Merriest has firmed into $5.50 with the bookmaker after drawing barrier six. Second-elect La Bella Diosa poses the biggest threat to O’Brien’s chances jumping from barrier one on Saturday.
In her last race, Merriest made full use of the inside draw and was happy to lead from the barrier. Sitting on the speed was a smart strategy from jockey Damien Oliver with the ever-speedy Iconoclasm and Tulip in the field, but it’s likely we see Oliver sit a little off the pace at Flemington as he adjusts Merriest to the track.
Last time up, Merriest found an extra gear down the straight which proved enough to hold off a late challenge from Tulip. She’s certainly got the turn of foot to win by several lengths, however her record at Flemington has been spotty at best.
In four starts, Merriest has placed fifth on two separate occasions as well as sixth back in 2016, but it’s her run in the Group 2 Blazer Stakes (1400m) that has punters calling. She finished second behind Irish six-year old mare Now Or Later, and has a pretty firm record over the same distance.
Likewise, Group 2 status has posed some challenges. After the impressive showing at the Blazer Stakes, Merriest went on to run sixth two weeks later in the Group 2 Tristarc Stakes (1400m) behind the likes of Shillelagh and Global Glamour.
With the Blazer Stakes and the Tristarc a likely option again this year, Saturday’s run will go a long way to determining Merriest’s immediate future this Spring.
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