Star New Zealand three-year-old Merlin has been locked in for the second spot in the $350,000 Group 1 The Rising Sun.
The star colt will head across the ditch after accepting an invitation into one of the Queensland Constellations’ marquee events.
Merlin has impressed so far in his fledgling career, claiming 11 victories from just 14 starts amassing close to $360,000 (AUD) in prize money, including a win in the $200,000 Listed NZB Standardbred Harness Million Three-Year-Old C&G Final.
His biggest win came just two weeks ago, taking out the Group 1 Woodlands Stud Northern Derby over 2700m in Auckland.
Merlin joins Leap To Fame in The Rising Sun field, after the reigning Queensland Horse of the Year was locked in for the race last week.
Trainer Barry Purdon said he was looking forward to the challenge of coming up against some of Australasia’s best pacers.
“We’re pretty excited to be able to bring him over – we don’t underestimate the task at hand, there’s some good horses that are going to be in it,” Purdon said.
“It’ll be a big step up for him but we’re still keen to put him on show and we’d like to think we’re in there with a chance.
“You’ve got to step up at some stage, so this is probably a good opportunity that time of year to do so – it’s like buying a new car, you’ve got to take it out of the garage sometime.”
Earlier this year, it was announced that The Rising Sun – to be staged at The Creek on Saturday, July 8 – would receive a $50,000 prize money increase, to be run for $350,000 in 2023.
There will be added incentive for Merlin, with a $100,000 bonus on offer if a three-year-old wins the race.
Racing Queensland Senior Racing Manager – Harness David Brick said the confirmation of Merlin for The Rising Sun was reflective of the incentives on offer for trainers in Queensland during the winter.
“With sweeping prize money increases across the seven-week schedule, it is little wonder we are seeing trainers from across Australasia head to the Sunshine State to take part in the Constellations,” he said.
“The inclusion of one of New Zealand’s best pacers in what will be a stellar field ensures The Rising Sun will be one of the great highlights on the racing calendar.
“We look forward to unveiling further wildcard acceptances as we draw closer to July 8, and continue to build towards the most exciting and innovative iteration of the Queensland Constellations yet.”
Throughout the Constellations, more than $3 million in prize money and bonuses will go on the line, including 8 Group 1s.
Click here for more information on the 2023 Queensland Constellations.