Merlin (NZ) adds Group One Derby to Incredible Record
27 March 2023
Merlin (NZ) had the luxury of taking it easy when cruising to victory in the $137,000 Group One Woodlands Stud Northern Derby (2700m) at Alexandra Park on Friday night.
The brilliant three-year-old led an absolute domination of the classic event by NZB Standardbred graduates, who filled the first seven placings and made up 12 of the 13 runners.
Merlin was purchased by Dean Shannon’s Montana Park for $120,000 at the 2021 National Yearling Sale in Christchurch when he was offered by breeder-vendors Taffy Ltd.
After an incredibly tough run of draws, driver Zachary Butcher took the chance to put Merlin up on the speed in Friday night’s feature. After making a career of producing scintillating late finishes, taking the passing lane was something new for Merlin. After hitting the lead early in the run home, the brilliant colt had the audacity to ease up and cruise to the line.
“That is just him, he doesn’t like running away from horses and just switches off,” Butcher said. “When we got the passing lane he put half a length on them but then he pulled up.It is not like he is not trying, it is more he just relaxes when he knows he is home.”
Following his first Norther Derby victory in the sulky, Butcher paid tribute to Merlin and what he means to the whole team at the Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan stable.
“He is a special horse to everyone at our barn, not many win races the way he does.It is cool to be part of it, it is a great ride, you just enjoy these moments.”
Butcher had a crucial decision to make with two laps to go in Friday night’s Group One when Son Of Mac (NZ) (American Ideal) challenged for the lead. The reinsman’s choice to trail his rival paid off, but not before runner-up Son Of Mac dug in for the fight in the home straight.
Son Of Mac was purchased by trainer Kyle Marshall for $60,000 from Leanach Lodge’s draft at the 2021 Auckland National Yearling Sale.
The first two horses home in the Northern Derby are now set to be aimed at feature races in Australia.
Sinbad (NZ) (Downbytheseaside) took third placing when powering home out of the pack, with fellow NZB Standardbred graduate Sooner The Bettor (NZ) (Bettor’s Delight) fighting on strongly for fourth. Jolimont (NZ) (Sweet Lou) was fifth, with Two Eye See (NZ) (Art Major) sixth and Charlie Brown (NZ) (Art Major) seventh in a finish dominated by NZB Standardbred graduates.
Photo: Alexandra Park