Co-trainer Jason Sharp is adopting a wait-and-see approach with exciting sprinter Aston Merit ahead of the recent Group 2 Healesville Cup finalist’s city debut at The Meadows on Saturday afternoon.
After brilliantly winning the Highway 31 Maiden Challenge at Healesville (pictured above with handler Liam Sharp), in what looks like being a fantastic form race, trainers Jason and Jessica Sharp threw the son of 2015 G1 Hume Cup heroine Secret Spell in the deep end, contesting the G2 Cup heats at just his third start.
The Sharps’ judgement was vindicated as Aston Merit ran second to fastest qualifier Hill Top Jonah, followed by a close fourth to Ferdinand Boy in the Cup final, hitting the line with minor placegetters, dual G1 winner Tiggerlong Tonk and Hill Top Jonah.
“His run was pretty good, we were happy with him,” said Jason Sharp.
“I thought Hill Top Jonah, which was drawn next to Aston Merit, might have led him into the race but it didn’t turn out how I expected. They were bumping each other the whole way.”
Aston Merit, which has won two of his four starts, will take the next step in his development at The Meadows on Saturday, when he steps up to ‘500’ for the first time in race 3, a Grade 6 event to jump at 4.52pm.
The Sharps are targeting next month’s G3 Great Chase series, which they won in 2018 with reserve Go Commando.
While Aston Merit is likely to start favourite on the strength of his Healesville exploits, Sharp issued a cautionary word to punters, saying the lightly-raced blueblood will improve on whatever he produces first-up over ‘500’.
WATCH: Aston Merit (2) ran an eye-catching fourth to Ferdinand Boy (5) at just his fourth start in the G2 Healesville Cup final on September 12.
“We’re taking him to The Meadows with the Great Chase in mind,” Sharp said.
“I’m happy with the inside draw (Box 2) and while he probably needs a few more kilometres in his legs, he’s got the ability to run well.
“We haven’t pushed him out in his trials. I gave him a lap around The Meadows on Monday and I was happy with what he did. He went good early but his run home wasn’t as good.
“I’m not really that worried about what he does on Saturday. It’s more about education and getting him to run out the back-end of the 500 metres.
“I’d expect him to keep improving and we’ll get a better idea of what he can do over ‘500’ after two or three runs.
“He’s still an unknown quantity over 500m. If you give me a call on Saturday afternoon I’ll have a much better idea!”
‘Team Sharp’ will also have another Ray Borda-owned ‘Aston’ runner in action at The Meadows in Aston Lavinia, the winner of nine from 39, including five from 12 over 525m at The Meadows, which will exit Box 5 in race 8 at 6.34pm.
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