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Seve, inner, gets a nose margin on Frankie Major in the first two-year-old race in the north. PHOTO: Megan Liefting/Race Images.

Zachary: Frankie is quick but dad might need some wizardry to knock me off on Merlin

So can Lincoln Farms’ Frankie Major live with impressive debutant Merlin in Saturday night’s Young Guns heat at Alexandra Park?

Who better to ask then the man who has driven them both, leading Auckland reinsman Zachary Butcher?

“You can never say never but Merlin is one of the nicer early two-year-olds I’ve driven,” Butcher said. “He has the all round game: He can relax, he has gate speed, he can follow, lead up or sit parked.

“You can’t get too carried away because there’ll be a few nice ones who haven’t hit the track yet - Mark (Purdon) will have a couple - but I rate Merlin pretty highly and he looks the best of the ones going round now.”

Butcher says when Merlin won on debut at Auckland a week ago he led and beat his Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan-trained stablemate Sooner The Bettor very easily.

“He’s not as good in front either - he wasn’t giving 100% until he saw the other one coming and then he took off.

“I pulled the hood and he put four or five lengths on them and then he started loafing a bit. I reckon I had another three or four lengths up my sleeve.”

Zachary Butcher … “Frankie Major has unreal speed but Merlin looks best of the ones going round.”Zachary Butcher … “Frankie Major has unreal speed but Merlin looks best of the ones going round.”That’s a rap which is hard to overlook but Butcher has liked Frankie Major from the day he first started educating him at Lincoln Farms.

And he wasn’t in the slightest bit surprised when Frankie Major and his father David nearly won first-up on January 21, the judge taking several minutes to find a nose margin in favour of the Tony Herlihy-trained Seve.

“He’s got a great attitude and he’s got unreal speed. He’s run some slick quarters round Pukekohe in a heavy cart.

“On Friday he should cross the one (Hugo Maguire) at the start and if he sits on Merlin’s back who’s to say he can’t swish him up the lane?

“I actually told dad last time Frankie is probably a better follower than a leader but we thought we’d put him in front and see how he went.”

The result was nearly perfect as Frankie kicked clear in the straight and was collared only in the last stride, clocking a 2:02.5 mile rate, two seconds slower than Merlin took in his win.

Frankie Major actually raced under a slight cloud that night, sent out at long odds after a lacklustre workout earlier in the week.

Butcher wasn’t too worried, however, as the horse was coming back from a three week break and was well underdone before the heat.

Critically, the Art Major-Delight Me colt, and his two stablemates Lincon River and Beaudiene Rocknroll, won’t be at their absolute best on Friday night either.

They were all withdrawn from their last assignments when a bug hit the stable and crusty noses appeared everywhere.

“It did knock them back a bit - a couple of my horses had it too - and they just weren’t working as well as they had been.

“It depends where they’re at now but generally in their first run after a virus they’re not quite as sharp. Frankie Major did work well the other day but it’s probably best to drive him with a sit in case he is behind the eight ball.”

Lincoln River … his debut run was better than it looked. PHOTO: Trish Dunell.Lincoln River … his debut run was better than it looked. PHOTO: Trish Dunell.Lincoln River and Beaudiene Rocknroll have no option but to take it easy early, drawn one and three on the second row, but co-trainer Ray Green believes that could help in their education.

“Lincoln River’s draw looks awkward but it could turn out good, you just don’t know.

“But Maurice (McKendry) will work it out. He schools young horses beautifully, that’s his forte.”

Lincoln River, a Bettors Delight colt out of the NZ Oaks winner Ideal Belle, actually raced better than his debut sixth looks on paper, when he beat home only early breaker Beaudiene Rocknroll.

“Maurice was pretty pleased with how he went. He said if he’d come out and sat parked he’d have finished a lot closer.”

Beaudiene Rocknroll could be excused for panicking behind the gate when a rival squeezed him up, Green said.

“He just got a bit lost but he’ll learn from that.

“Once again he’s drawn awkwardly so he’ll end up in the back half of the field which makes it hard.

“But so long as he gets round and has a good experience I’ll be happy. If he gets some money that would be great.

“It’s still too early to really get a handle on these babies. They’ve still got a lot to learn, some will keep improving, some won’t cope with the pressure.”

Our runners this week: How our trainers rate them

Ray Green

Ray’s comments

Friday night at Auckland

Race 1: Obadiah Dragon
6.07pm

“He’s the lowest rated in the field, so it will be tough for him, but he’s racing really well. He just doesn’t need any bad luck.”

Race 4: Lincoln La Moose
7.38pm

“You won’t see the best of him on Friday. It’s his first race since April and he’ll definitely need the run.”

Race 6: My Copy
8.31pm

“He’s no champion but he’s very honest and is always capable of finishing in the money. He only needs a fair crack at them.”

Race 7: Tyson
8.57pm

“You can forget about that debut run, it was a non-event for him the way the race panned out. He got way too far back and would need to have clocked ridiculous times to get into it. He has speed and feels like a nice horse but he’s very inexperienced. I wouldn’t expect him to round the others up but he won’t be disgraced.”

Race 7: Lincoln Lou
8.57pm

Update: Scratched on vet’s advice

“He’s a very nice colt. He’s a lot stronger this time in and he could develop into a serious horse. If he repeats his last run, he’ll be hard to beat. I think he might have the wood on Sugar Ray. He has better manners and probably a bit more speed too.”

Race 7: Sugar Ray Lincoln
8.57pm

“He won comfortably last time despite being three wide for much of the last lap and four wide turning for home. He’s a very good colt. There’s not much between him and Lincoln Lou.”

Race 9: Commander Lincoln
9.49pm

“He’s as honest as they come, he’d die for you, but he lacks a yard of sharp speed to be a serious horse. He has a draw upgrade and drops in class but things have to pan out for him.”

Mark Dux

Mark Dux’s comments

Friday night at Albion Park

Race 8: Captain Nemo
6.33pm NZ time

“It’s not an easy race and, from an average draw, we’ll drive him quietly again so he’ll be at the mercy of the tempo. If he gets the right trip, I could see him hitting the line well and sneaking into the money but after this run to tighten him up he’ll be all set to go, close to winning.”

Les Harding

Les Harding

Saturday night at Port Pirie

Race 5: Beaudiene Rocknroll
10.02pm NZ time

“I’m very happy with him and confident he’ll run a top race but it’s hard to predict how he’ll measure up given this is a big step-up in class compared with the horses he has raced against for his last two wins.”

Race Images - Harness