Merlin (NZ) produces magical display in Harness Million Final

17 February 2023


Merlin (NZ) [saddlecloth 11] winning narrowly. Photo: Race Images

Merlin (NZ) (Art Major) needed to be exceptional to win the $200,000 Listed NZB Standardbred Harness Million Three-Year-Old C&G Final (2200m) at Cambridge on Friday night and he certainly was.

The Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan-trained pacing star had plenty of work to do to haul in the leaders late in the lucrative feature, but the NZB Standardbred graduate’s incredible will to win and his scintillating speed saw him power home to clinch victory over a stellar field for driver Zachary Butcher.

Merlin was purchased by Dean Shannon of Montana Park for $120,000 at the 2021 National Yearling Sale in Christchurch when he was offered by breeder-vendors Taffy Ltd.

Butcher was full of praise for Merlin following his brilliant win, admitting the horse has a special place in his heart. 

“He is quicky becoming one of the favourites,” the reinsman said.

“He has got the will to win, he always seems to find a way.”

Merlin faced a tough draw, as he has done so many times before in his brilliant career, but it wasn’t enough to stop the three-year-old from showing his brilliance.

Connections of Merlin
Winning connections of Merlin (NZ). Photo: Race Images

The colt was patiently handled by his driver, who acknowledged his horse’s effort to overcome starting from barrier 11 in a 2.39.5 time for 2200m was huge.

“It was always going to be hard, they have run along nice enough and still got home in 27.5sec,” Butcher said.

“When you are four-wide around here trying to pick them up, it is hard work.”

“So, kudos to the big fella, he puts his head in front at the right time and I am just glad he has done it again tonight.”

Merlin’s powerful late burst of speed secured a Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan stable quinella, with Sooner The Bettor (NZ) (Bettor’s Delight) running a gallant second.

The brave runner-up was purchased by Barry Purdon Racing Stables for $130,000 from Kufra Farm’s draft at the 2021 National Yearling Sale in Auckland.

Sooner The Bettor led throughout, setting a strong tempo before holding off all but one of his rivals for driver Scott Phelan.

Several yearlings related to Merlin will be offered at the 2023 National Yearling Sale, which will take place in Auckland this Sunday 19 February, with selling continuing in Christchurch from Monday 20 to Wednesday 22 February.

Among them is Lot 248, a Captaintreacherous (USA) half-sister to be offered at Christchurch from the draft of Dunvegan Lodge.

Also from the outstanding family is Lot 197 in Christchurch, from Laura Smith’s draft. The Bettor’s Delight (USA) colt is from Abide With Me (NZ) (Christian Cullen), who is a half-sister to Merlin’s grand dam Imagine Me (NZ) (Dream Away).

To view the catalogues and sale information, visit All yearlings purchased at the Sale are eligible for the NZB Standardbred Harness Million Series, with approximately $1 million in prizemoney on offer for graduates of selected NZB sales.