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Suspension sours Mertens Sandown victory

Apprentice Beau Mertens moved to within one win of the lead in the Melbourne jockeys’ premiership with a Sandown victory, but had his day soured by suspension.

The Cranbourne-based apprentice trails five-time premiership winner Craig Williams who went winless on Wednesday.

Mertens was successful aboard the Robbie Griffiths-trained Dance With Fontein in the Clanbrooke Racing Handicap, but shortly after was handed an eight-meeting ban for careless riding in the Schweppes Handicap.

It was the third time Mertens has been suspended since the start of April and Racing Victoria chief steward Terry Bailey told the apprentice stewards were seeing too much of him in the inquiry room.

Mertens suspension begins after Saturday’s meeting at Caulfield where he has a full book of nine rides and can return for the Flemington meeting on May 20.

Luckily for Mertens he won’t miss a metropolitan meeting.

The victory of Dance With Fontein consolidated third place on the Melbourne trainers’ premiership for Griffths who is locked in a battle with Robert Smerdon ahead of Mick Price and Ciaron Maher.

With 27 metropolitan winners this season Griffiths said results had exceeded expectations.

He said moving to on-course stables at the Cranbourne training complex last year had improved results.

“There’s so many things we’ve got at Cranbourne to keep our horses happy,” Griffiths said.

“We’ve got a hill track, trail tracks and not having to float them is a big advantage.

“We’ve got four beaches in close proximity and beautiful tracks on which the horses are relaxed.

“You can keep horses so happy they will run well for a long time.”

Griffiths said Victorian racing was blessed with it’s array of young riding talent that includes Mertens along with fellow Cranbourne apprentices Ben Allen and Ben Thompson.

“When we book our riders, anyone of the three B’s will do but it can be a battle to get them,” Griffiths said.

Another Cranbourne-based apprentice Ethan Brown achieved his first city double with victories on Wasabi in the Toronado @ Swettenham Handicap and Alrouz in the Le Pine Funerals Handicap.

However he was fined $500 for using the whip five more times than the permitted number before the 100m aboard Alrouz.

Brown has now ridden seven city winners, all at Sandown, with his first coming January.

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