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20/9/2017 Merchant Navy ready for Golden Rose

The undefeated Merchant Navy (Fastnet Rock) faces the biggest test of his highly encouraging
career to date when he lines up in the Golden Rose Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) at Rosehill on Saturday.
The Ciaron Maher-trained three-year-old, who made a winning debut in March and has been successful in his three subsequent starts, is currently on the third line of the betting at $8.50 with Ladbrokes for the $1,000,000 feature.
The colt will be ridden by Mark Zahra from barrier two in the 14-strong field this weekend, with leading contenders Menari (Snitzel) ($2), Pariah (Redoute’s Choice) ($7) and Gold Standard (Sebring) ($13 into $11) drawing wider in barriers 11, 12, and ten respectively.
Merchant Navy has yet to race right-handed in four outings, but the son of Fastnet Rock (Danehill) pleased Maher when galloping on the course proper at Rosehill yesterday morning and has reportedly pulled up well following his first up victory in the H D F McNeil Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) at Caulfield on 2 September.
“He is in great order. He galloped out on the course proper at Rosehill (Tuesday) morning. Ciaron is up (in Sydney) and is extremely happy with him,” Maher’s assistant trainer David Eustace said.
“He has come through his run in the McNeil in very good form and he hasn’t missed a beat since that run.
“He is a winner over 1400 already so the distance will be no problem, and Ciaron was really happy with the way that he got round the bend.”
Merchant Navy has shipped to Sydney before, though he was unable to gain a start in the ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) at Randwick in April.
However, Eustace said it was not a wasted journey and provided the progressive colt with some valuable experience away from Caulfield.
“He went up to Sydney last year hoping to get into the Sires’, unfortunately he didn’t get in, but that trip away definitely benefitted him,” Eustace said.
Merchant Navy has been dropped in towards the tail of the field at his last two starts, but Eustace said that tactics for the Golden Rose had yet to be determined.
“You can never be unhappy with barrier two. We have a very good jockey in Mark Zahra on board, you book these guys who are able to think on their feet,” Eustace said.
“There are a lot of good horses drawn on his outside. He was ridden relatively handy when he won his maiden and we have been a little bit further back since then.
“We can’t make firm plans just yet, it will depend on what the track is rated, but you can never be disappointed with barrier two.
“Ciaron has always had an awful lot of faith in the horse and believes that he can go a long way. His first up win proved that he is high class and we certainly believe there is improvement in him, especially up in trip and when he gets older. We are really confident that he is up to this level.”
Meanwhile, jockey Josh Parr is content with barrier 11 for the short- priced favourite Menari, who has been firmly at the head of the pre-post betting for the Golden Rose Stakes since winning The Run To The Rose (Gr 2, 1200m) in taking style on 9 September.
Parr recounted his nightmare experience aboard the son of Snitzel (Redoute’s Choice) when finishing a luckless second in the Canonbury Stakes (Gr 3, 1100m) from an inside draw and said he would rather take aim at his rivals from out wide.
"He should have won by half the length of the straight (in the Canonbury). It was just one of those situations where from barrier one I found myself in a position where I couldn't get out,” Parr told Racing.com.
"I thought at that point that I may not get back on him, it is a reality of racing.
"He is a big horse with a big stride, therefore my first feeling is I would rather be drawn wide than inside and have the danger of being locked away again.
"I've still got a couple of days to work out a plan and how the race is likely to be run but on first look the draw is fine."
Menari has yet to win over further than 1200 metres, but Parr has taken inspiration from Astern’s (Medaglia d’Oro) impressive victory in the Golden Rose Stakes last season on his first attempt at the trip.
“I thought Astern might have been too brilliant to run a strong seven furlongs and look what he did. That is giving me confidence Menari will run a strong 1400 metres,” said Parr.
"Looking back at the past couple of years, the Golden Rose winner has been the dominant colt and I think Menari has showed similar form as previous winners heading into Saturday."
The last filly to win the Golden Rose Stakes was Forensics (Flying Spur) who took out the rescheduled race in March 2008, and the Bjorn Baker-trained Champagne Cuddles (Not A Single Doubt) is rated a $17
chance to end that barren run this weekend.
The promising three-year-old has hit the frame in Group company on each of her three starts so far this season, finishing third in the Silver Shadow Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) first up, second in the Furious Stakes (Gr2, 1200m) on 2 September and second again in the Tea Rose Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m) just four days ago.
The Lindsay Park-trained Formality (Fastnet Rock) ($21) has twice finished ahead of Champagne Cuddles this season and is the only other filly declared for the final field, with the pair receiving a two kilogram sex
allowance from their male counterparts.
Warwick Farm-based trainer Bjorn Baker said the original plan had been to target the Flight Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) on 30 September next up with the daughter of Not A Single Doubt (Redoute’s Choice), but that she was in such good form that he had decided to back up in the Golden Rose.
"It was a last minute decision," Baker said.
"We didn't expect to back up but she's in good order. She's come through that run well. She's got a great constitution.
"It's her first chance at a seven-day back up but if there's one horse that can do it, she will.
"She's been over the the trip and she's got a reasonable gate (eight).
It's probably nice in a big field to not be too far out."

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