Mitchell Lamb from Tab.com.au expects Aaron Purcell's son of Fastnet Rock to make a winning reappearance at Caulfield before proving himself among the world's best sprinters.
Merchant Navy is a star colt who, if he has improved even a little from his spring campaign, will win not only this but also the Newmarket before possibly heading over to Royal Ascot to conquer the world.
His only failure in his six-start career came in the Golden Rose, where zero went right. He then returned to Flemington for one of the best three year old sprints I've ever seen assembled, and he produced a dazzling burst of speed to win the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes at insane odds.
He's a valuable commodity with Coolmore paying a princely sum to secure him, and they won't be leaving anything to chance as far has having him ready to go for this. Mark Zahra should be able to settle him a couple of lengths off the speed and have him set to rip down the middle when asked.
Love the horse and I won't hear of him not living up to expectations this prep.
Around The Grounds
Snicki Minaj showed she's a filly with a good level of talent when she ran her rivals ragged at her second start, doing the job at both ends of the race, after a debut run that can be completely forgiven.
Her trainer, Tony Gollan, has wasted no time in getting her down to Sydney for a shot at something better, and she gets her chance in the Inglis Classic; she meets a decent field but one probably lacking top-tier two year olds.
She jumped quickly last to take hold of the lead before she was pressured a touch early last time, and I loved the way she responded when threatened in the straight. Ronnie Stewart gave her a crack or two with the whip, and the daughter of Hinchinbrook raced away from the chasers to win with an ever-growing margin.
I think she's got the gate speed to deal with that widish draw, and so be it if something really wants to kick up inside her; either way, I don't think she's going to get trapped on a limb. Very keen on her at almost double-figure odds.
Not much went right for this consistent mare after a fantastic first-up win last prep, when she beat the males giving weight to them, but at her best she's a very classy sprinting mare with a quality turn of foot.
She gets a few ticks for this, as she always races well fresh, she's been given two very quiet trials to have her ready, and Tim Clark is two for two on her. She draws second from the outside in the small field, but the way it sets up she might be able to just come across underneath likely leader Memes and be able to slot in for a lovely trail.
If she gets the right run in transit, I can see her being able to produce that aforementioned turn of foot and pounce after they straighten; then we'll just need that strong will to win she also possesses to hold off the late arrivals.
Plague Stone has had a boom on him from day one, but I believe it's quite warranted and I think James Cummings' plan to send him straight down to Melbourne for a tilt at the Blue Diamond, rather than staying in Sydney for a traditional Slipper prep, can pay big dividends.
We all saw his most recent trial -- it was scintillating -- but he was equally brilliant as a trial winner prior to doing himself zero favours on debut last November . He pulled his head off early, forcing Brenton Avdulla to use him up and sit outside the leader, before being unable to reel in handy filly Secret Lady in the last 150 metres of the race. That run was completely forgivable and Cummings tipped him out straight away to allow him to mature a bit more.
As far as the Blue Diamond Colts and Geldings Prelude on Saturday goes, the son of Lonhro has drawn perfectly in barrier No. 4 so Kerrin McEvoy should be able to settle wherever he wants. Ideally that will be with a sit behind a couple that want to lead; I have no doubt that we're going to see him produce a quality turn of foot if he settles early in proceedings. If he does the little things right he'll prove just how talented he is.
I really thought we were going to see Petition evolve into a stakes winner in the spring, but, alas, due to a mix of little luck, a lack of full maturity and her general racing pattern, she failed to reach those heights -- twice finishing a close-up fourth at Group 2 level.
She returns now, no doubt again chasing some black type, and Anthony Freedman has wasted no time in getting her into stakes grade. I think his belief in the mare (mine as well) is going to be rewarded this campaign.
I think, in essence, she's a 1200-1400 metres galloper, but she needs some semblance of speed on, especially deeper into her preps, and she also needs clear galloping room. There's good speed engaged here, with the likes of Prussian Vixen, For A Song and Fraulein Rosie in the race, and, while still fresh, Mark Zahra might be able to settle Petition a bit closer than usual without taking the edge right off.
She's going to be a valuable broodmare with some black type to her name, and Freedman might just have her really revved up here to get some on that pedigree page; she's certainly good enough to do so.
Over The Odds
A three-quarter brother and stablemate to Mr Sneaky, who goes around in the C.F. Orr Stakes directly after this race, Mr So And So has definitely got a little bit of his high-class sibling's ability.
He's taken a little bit of time to come to hand, like Mr Sneaky, but we saw him flash his talent when a close-up fourth at listed level in the last race of the four-day Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington after an easy maiden win at Echuca.
First up at Moonee Valley on Australia Day, he went back early and was some 10 lengths away mid race before slowly creeping into it; he came around the entire field as they got to the turn and was still able to run home strongly to finish a little more than a length from the winner in fourth. That was a fantastic effort that has me believing he can take a big step this prep.
This is a quality Group 2 field, and you wouldn't say he's well in at the weights, but there's definite upside with him and he could be the knockout horse with that run under his belt.
Leg 1 - 3,4,5,6
Leg 2 - 2,4
Leg 3 - 1,2,6
Leg 4 - 2,4,6,7,9
($100 = 83.33 percent)
Leg 1 - 6
Leg 2 - 1,8,9,13
Leg 3 - 1,3,4,7,11
Leg 4 - 1,7
($100 = 250 percent)
TAB EARLY MARKET MOVERS & BIG BETS
Race 3 - She Will Reign $1.70 - $1.15 ($5,000 @ $1.70) (Nature Strip scratched - deductions 26c win, 19c place)
Race 5 - Sanctimonious $3.50 - $3 ($1,500 @ $3.50, $400 @ $3.20), Ballistica $4.60 - $4.20 ($1,000 @ $4.60, $1,500 @ $4.40)
Race 6 - Kementari $4 - $3.20 ($800 @ $3.70, $2,000 @ $3.40)
Race 7 - Egyptian Symbol $3.60 - $3.30 ($1,000 @ $3.60)
Race 9 - Fickle Folly $6 - $5 ($1,100 @ $5.50)
Race 2 - Pure Elation $8 - $7 ($500 @ $8, $500 @ $7.50)
Race 3 - Native Soldier $8.50 - $6 ($600 e/w @ $7/$2.35)
Race 5 - Tulip $4.40 - $4.20 ($5,000 @ $4.40)
Race 6 - Androssan $5 - $4.60 ($9,000 @ $5, $3,000 @ $4.60)
Race 8 - Tosen Stardom $4.80 - $4.40 ($7,000 @ $4.80), Mr Sneaky $10 - $9 ($350 @ $9, $300 @ $9)