Magic night for Merlin in $1m The Race by Grins

Merlin was more than magical in his national record-smashing win in the $1,000,000 The Race by Grins at Cambridge last night.

The brilliant 4-year-old’s star shone brighter than ever when he downed a classy field in emphatic style.

Merlin’s draw outside his arch-rival Don’t Stop Dreaming set him a huge task to win according to most of the pre-race hype.

But it proved to be a task the Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan-trained star was well and truly up for.

"He is a beast. What a thrill," driver Zachary Butcher said.

"It might be too early to say it, but that might be my biggest thrill in racing."

Merlin blasted forward early in last night’s feature, but he and Butcher could not take the early lead from Don’t Stop Dreaming and Natalie Rasmussen.

Butcher soon found a spot in the one-one for his four-year-old and when it was time to launch his winning run, Merlin went into overdrive.

"They haven’t been coming from wide tonight," the reinsman said.

"When I pulled him out at the 300m he was just trucking.

"He felt like a different beast and he just keeps getting better and better.

"We had intentions to try to lead but Nat was just too quick out for us.

"We had to adapt and change plans. I have got to give all credit to Barry, Scotty and the team."

Merlin stopped the clock in a brilliant 2.35.1 time, taking 0.3sec off the national all-comers record for 2200m.

Earlier in the night, Just Believe produced a stunning display to win the inaugural running of the TAB Trot Slot race.

Driver Greg Sugars moved the champion Victorian squaregaiter up to sit outside his arch-rival Callmethebreeze in the middle stages.

Though Callmethebreeze looked to have his shot to beat his fellow Australian, Just Believe’s class carried him to a memorable win in last night’s $600,000 feature.

After certifying his champion status in Australia and showing his talent in Sweden, Sugars was delighted that Just Believe was able to stamp his class in New Zealand.

"It’s just amazing. We’ve said it all before of how special this horse is, and to come here and prove that in this country is no easy feat."

"But he stood tall."