Merchant Navy will be entered for the Group 2 Rubiton Stakes with trainer Aaron Purcell to make a decision whether the star sprinting colt resumes in the Group 2 race or waits for the Lightning Stakes after he looks at the possible field.
Merchant Navy’s autumn target is the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington next month with connections to determine the best program to get him there in peak condition second-up.
The options are the weight-for-age Rubiton on Saturday over 1100m at Caulfield, four weeks before the Newmarket, or the Group 1 weight-for-age Lightning Stakes (1000m) a week later at Flemington.
“He will be nominated for the Rubiton on Monday,” trainer Aaron Purcell said.
“We’ll just see how the race looks and then discuss it with the owners probably on Monday afternoon, if we run in the Rubiton or wait a week and run in the Lightning.
“We’ll just try to figure out which race is going to bring him on for the Newmarket better. Obviously winning would be ideal, but we’ll try to work out what’s best for his future as well.
“The Newmarket is his goal for the autumn.”
Merchant Navy stormed home in the Coolmore Stud Stakes over the straight 1200m course at Flemington at his most recent start in early November to win the Group 1 race and take his record to five wins from six starts.
The colt has won a jump-out at Caulfield leading into his return.
“He’s going great,” Purcell said.
A trip to Royal Ascot is also on the radar if the colt can perform to expectations during the autumn.
Stablemate, Thousand Guineas winner Aloisia will have a barrier trial at Cranbourne on Monday as she continues preparations towards a return in The Vanity (1400m) at Flemington on Saturday week.
Another high profile three-year-old from the stable, Villermont, is scheduled to begin his campaign in Saturday’s Group 2 Autumn Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield along with Black Sail.
Villermont won the Group Two Sandown Guineas in the spring and, like Aloisia, has the Group One Australian Guineas as a second-up target.
Black Sail, third to Villermont in the Sandown Guineas, could also head to the Australian Guineas but his performance in the Autumn Stakes will determine whether he heads that way or goes to the Group 2 Autumn Classic (1800m) a week earlier.