Avdulla's spell put on Merlin

A bullish Mick Tubman will turn to the silky hands of Brenton Avdulla in the Villiers Stakes (1600m), hailing the Group 1-winning rider as having a "perfect understanding" with a refreshed Merlin Mustang.

Paired with gun apprentice Sam Clipperton and veteran hoop Brendan Ward in his last three starts, Merlin Mustang will be reunited with Avdulla for the highlight of Sydney's off-season racing on Saturday.

The Kembla Grange-trained four-year-old hasn't raced since flopping in the Hawkesbury Gold Cup (1600m) six weeks ago on a five-day back up.

But Tubman has declared the on-speed Merlin Mustang will be much more suited to Avdulla's riding style in the Warwick Farm feature.

"We've had trouble getting people to try to work him out," Tubman said. "They seem to want to hunt him up early when you don't [need to].

"All you've got to do is just to let him find his own rhythm early and if you hunt him all you're doing is using up petrol you don't have to. Brenton's got a perfect understanding of him."

Avdulla steered Merlin Mustang to a barrier trial thrashing of moderate opposition at Warwick Farm last week. It was the second morning hitout he's won in preparation for the Villiers.

Tubman suggested Merlin Mustang would be up to the mark against his Group 2 opposition, based on outstanding form in autumn's Rosehill Guineas (2000m).

"He's raced horses like Ocean Park and Laser Hawk when he was flat ... and he was only being beaten a few lengths.

"They'll know he's in a race on Saturday.

"In the last one I told Brenton to give him a good sound out and he sat up on him in the last furlong. He did it that easily and he's really well ..."

An improved performance from Merlin Mustang in the Villiers Stakes would cap a good week for Tubman's yard, with stable apprentice Winona Costin booting home a winning double including Moment Of Clarity in the feature at Dubbo on Monday.

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