Byerley Park trainer Shaun Clotworthy was happy to let premiership contender Matthew Cameron relinquish the ride on The Jungle Boy at Ruakaka today.
With 60.5kg to lump second-up he doesn't rate his talented Aussie-bound stayer a winning chance in the $25,000 Caltex Fuelzone Whangarei Cup (2100m).
Despite the gelding's surprise fresh-up 1600m win on June 16, Clotworthy sees the race as more of a Taumarunui Cup tune-up at Te Rapa a fortnight later.
Safely through that listed assignment, he'll then head to Victoria for a late winter campaign aimed at six-figure Melbourne handicaps and the country cup circuit.
"With Matthew chasing the premiership I don't see him [The Jungle Boy] as the best option to win the race [at Ruakaka]," said Clotworthy.
"He's come ahead in leaps and bounds since Ellerslie but it's a tall order to win with that weight second-up and a month between races."
Craig Grylls takes over the reins today, while Cameron, who held a two-win premiership lead over Lisa Allpress before the start of the Timaru card yesterday, pins his title hopes instead on the Logan-trained Jungle Juice.
Clotworthy's proven black-type performer ran third in the Whangarei Cup last year carrying 57.5kg before running seventh as favourite in the Taumarunui Cup on a heavy track.
He was a costly flop in his next two runs too before a lucrative stretch through spring, summer and the early autumn.
Highlights included finishing runner-up in the group three New Zealand Cup (3200m), a third in the group two Wellington Cup (2400m) and a win in the Nathans Memorial (2200m) at Ellerslie.
Those efforts catapulted The Jungle Boy to a 101 rating - he's 16 rating points superior to the next best performer today - and given his camp little option but to trek across the Tasman.
"If we had any doubt about going the 60.5kg confirms it really," said Clotworthy.
The recently concluded Banjo Patterson series in Victoria - the same one Cambridge galloper Figure of Speech starred in two years ago - was the original target.
But Clotworthy says there are a stack of plan B options, many with A$100,000 purses.
Meanwhile, he says stablemate Loviste, the mount of Rory Hutchings, isn't the Whangarei Cup second-string most may think on the 54kg minimum.
When you factor in her awkward beginning, the handy mare's seventh in a similar race there on June 30 is better than it looks on paper.
"She's improved a lot since then and is pretty honest."
Hutchings also combines with Clotworthy's only other Ruakaka runner, Bombella, another double-figure chance in race two, the Lion Red Maiden 1200.
After an impressive trial win at Ellerslie in May the Bel Esprit filly kicked off her three-year-old campaign with an unlucky fifth over 1200m at Pukekohe on May 31.
But she let the camp down next-up when beating just one home over 1230m next-up at Rotorua on June 25.
"She went a slashing race first-up but disappointed badly next time," said Clotworthy.
"It may have been the [heavy] ground; we're just hoping for a better run on better ground on Saturday, otherwise we'll be wondering a bit.
"She shows us plenty at home."
Cameron's other high-profile mounts today include the Rogers-trained Buckland Boy, a stand-out chance in the $20,000 two-year-old feature.
It's also the final leg of Westbury Stud's Triple Crown points series in which the Sandtrap gelding has a commanding grip on the $5000 owner and trainer bonuses.
He finished second on debut in the series opener on May 16 and followed up with an impressive win on return on June 20.
The highly rated Freedom, a fresh runner to Ruakaka's winter series, looks the toughest to beat.
He was rated one of the best two-year-olds of the summer after a stunning debut win at Ellerslie on Boxing Day and had little luck when well backed in the Karaka Million two starts later.
The Stephen McKee-trained O'Reilly gelding should be even better for his fresh-up fourth at Te Rapa on June 9 in which he didn't get the clearest of runs.