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Trainer Ciaron Maher has Group One aspirations for three-year-old Merchant Navy who is set for a stakes-race return at Caulfield.

Unbeaten in three starts, Merchant Navy is set to run in Saturday’s Group Three HDF McNeil Stakes over 1200m.

Merchant Navy won on debut over 1200m at Pakenham in March before graduating to 1400m with victories at Sandown and Flemington a month later.

Following Saturday’s first-up assignment, Maher is eyeing two Group One contests, one in Sydney and one back in Melbourne, providing he runs up to expectations.

Maher is seriously thinking about the Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill on September 23 and the Caulfield Guineas (1600m) on October 14.

Merchant Navy also holds a nomination for the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on October 28.

He is in the market at $15 for the Golden Rose, $17 for the Caulfield Guineas while he is a $201 chance in Cox Plate early betting.

“He’s on a Guineas path,” Maher said.

“He’ll run on Saturday and all going well he’ll head up to Sydney for the Golden Rose and then come back for the Guineas.

“Since he was last at the races he’s made a lot of progression.

“He’s quite solid now being a three-year-old colt and his trials have been good.”

Merchant Navy sat off a stablemate in an 800m gallop on Tuesday before speeding up over the final 400m and goes into Saturday’s race in good order.

“It was nice sharp work and he pulled up well in the wind and he’s right to go on Saturday,” Maher said.

“Over 1200 metres in his backyard, I expect him to run a very forward race.”

 
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