Star Rivals Set for Epic Clash in Million Dollar Feature

12 April 2024

Merlin (NZ) and Don't Stop Dreaming (NZ) will go head to head for the million dollar race.

Don’t Stop Dreaming (NZ) (Bettor’s Delight) and Merlin (NZ) (Art Major) are set for yet another epic battle in the $1,000,000 Listed The Race By Grins (2200m) at Cambridge on Friday night.

The NZB Standardbred graduates are the clear-cut favourites for the million dollar feature and deservedly so, given their outstanding talent and their excellent recent form.

The two stars showed they were on track for more explosive showings in Friday night’s feature, with their one-two finish in the recent $57,000 Group Two Cambridge Flying Mile (1609m) last week.

Merlin worked harder than his rivals and proved too slick for them in last week’s sprint for trainers Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan.

After thriving since, Phelan goes into The Race By Grins knowing his horse will be even better for having last week’s run.

“It was his first run in over a month and we used it as a bit of a trial,” the trainer said.

“It was a great run and he has improved from it, he’s feeling big and bold, so I couldn’t be happier going into this week.”

Merlin was secured 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.

The superstar four-year-old starts from barrier 5, outside his arch-rival Don’t Stop Dreaming.

Don’t Stop Dreaming’s stocks only rose higher ahead of The Race By Grins after the star four-year-old secured barrier 2.

After flashing home from the rear of the field in last week’s feature, the Mark and Nathan Purdon trained pacer looks a huge winning threat.

Mark Purdon goes into the million dollar feature thrilled with Don’t Stop Dreaming’s latest effort which came on the back of his excellent form in Australia.

“It was a really eye-catching run,” the trainer said.

On Friday, Purdon will hand the reins to champion driver Natalie Rasmussen, who was also thrilled with the feel Don’t Stop Dreaming gave her in last week’s lead-up.

“She was rapt with him, coming into this week she thought it was an ideal run,” Purdon said.

Don’t Stop Dreaming was purchased by the All Stars Racing Stables for $250,000 when he was offered among Studholme Bloodstock’s draft at the 2021 National Yearling Sale in Christchurch.

NZB Standardbred graduate Republican Party (NZ) (Bettor’s Delight) has also made the final field for the $1,000,000 Listed The Race By Grins as the feature event’s emergency.