Connections of Merchant Navy have been single-minded in focusing on the Newmarket Handicap and trainer Aaron Purcell is confident the colt is on target to deliver.
Three-year-old Merchant Navy is the current favourite to add Saturday’s Group One Newmarket (1200m) at Flemington to his elite-level win over the course and distance in the Coolmore Stud Stakes against his own age in the spring.
“Everything he has done this time in has been geared around trying to have him right on the day,” Purcell said.
“I don’t think we could have him any better.
“The preparation has been faultless.
“The lad who rides him every day said he’s never felt better and his attitude is as good as ever.
“His gallops have been as good as they’ve ever been.
“He’ll have another gallop in the morning just to be kept ticking over and we’ll go to the races on Saturday in as good a shape as possible.”
Merchant Navy has 52kg in the Newmarket which is below his regular jockey Mark Zahra’s range with Hong Kong-based Chad Schofield, who won the 2014 Newmarket on Lankan Rupee, booked to ride.
Merchant Navy was doing his best work late when third first-up in the Group Two Rubiton Stakes (1100m) on February 10.
“Group One handicaps in big fields are never easy to win, but I wouldn’t swap him for any other horse,” Purcell said.
“He’s a high-class colt. He’s well-weighted.”
Merchant Navy produced a barn-storming finish to win the Coolmore Stud Stakes in November in the final strides.
“Having horses to chase in the Coolmore got the best out of him,” Purcell said.
“And he’ll be ridden a similar way in the Newmarket.
“We expect him to be finishing hard.”
Merchant Navy was at $4.60 on Monday ahead of last-start Futurity Stakes winner Brave Smash at $5.50.
Defending champion Redkirk Warrior, who won the Lightning Stakes last month, is expected to carry the No. 1 saddlecloth with 57.5kg and shared the third line of betting at $7 with Group Two winner Rich Charm.