Fans of Mah Sish got a double helping of good news in just an hour yesterday as the open-class pacing season stepped up a gear.
The Hunter Cup winner impressed at the Addington trials for the second week in a row, overcoming a 40m handicap to bolt away with the main trial, leaving Terror To Love, among others, in his wake.
While the latter was not asked for a serious effort in his first public outing for the season, Mah Sish's trial confirmed what a potent combination his manners and stamina are going to be on the biggest stage this season.
And it will also tweak punters' interest in his $13 opening quote with the TAB for the New Zealand Cup, in which he ran fourth last year when still a newcomer to open class.
The TAB opened their market for the great Addington race on November 12 just minutes after the trial and had Terror To Love the $4.30 favourite to become just the third pacer to win the Cup three times.
He narrowly shades Christen Me at $4.50 and West Australian hero I'm Themightyquinn at $4.60.
The dominance of the big three sees group one winners like Mah Sish and Caribbean Blaster ($15) at odds rarely associated with horses of their class and Mah Sish's trainer Tim Butt says while his pacer lacks the x-factor of the favourites he is an ideal New Zealand Cup horse.
"All things being equal, my fella will be there on the big day and will love the 3200m standing start.
"He might not be as flat out good as the other three, but I'm Themightyquinn still has to actually make the trip from Perth and Christen Me is a wonderful talent but he now has to transfer that to open class.
"So we will give them something to chase."
I'm Themightyquinn is back in work after a spider bite that caused a severely swollen leg two weeks ago and his trainer Gary Hall is targeting an unexpected Cup lead-up.
"I'm thinking about taking him to Kaikoura for the Cup," said Hall.
"He will scoot around the little track there [November 4] and it is only eight days out from the Cup which suits him. So all going smoothly we will definitely be there."
Caribbean Blaster is a definite Cup contender but fellow Victorian star Bitobliss is unlikely, so steer away from the $12 on offer for him.
The connections of NSW pacer Suave Stuey Lombo are also seriously considering the trip to Addington after he downed Excel Stride at Menangle on Saturday night.
"We want to come and also think the Free-For-All on the Friday will be a great race for him," said trainer Shane Tritton.
While Mah Sish will kick off his season at Oamaru on September 15, Butt's other former Hunter Cup winner Choise Achiever returns in Friday night's Maurice Holmes Vase at Addington. The winner of the race is guaranteed a start in the New Zealand Cup and so has lured in-form northern star Besotted south.
Fresh back from his outstanding Breeders Crown campaign, Besotted sizzled at the Alexandra Park workouts on Saturday, prompting trainer Ray Green to head south earlier than intended to try to secure a Cup start.
Also entered for Addington on Friday is champion trotter Stig.
One of New Zealand racing's great characters, John Devlin, was honoured at the North Island Harness awards dinner on Saturday night.
Devlin, who has been battling cancer, won the Outstanding Contribution award, and Cambridge trainer Colin Butler won the Racing Achievement award for his effort with two-time Jewels winner Charlemagne.
Bettor Cover Lover won the pacer-of-the-year title and I Can Doosit the top trotting award.