Could this be the year of the fillies' Derby double?
That rarest of all racing feats is moving a step closer to reality as Auckland Cup Week nears, with fillies now favourites for the galloping and pacing Derbys.
While Habibi has been the long-time favourite for Saturday's glamour race of Cup week, the TV3 Derby at Ellerslie, the emergence of Adore Me as the favourite for the pacing Derby at Alexandra Park six days later is a surprise.
But one which her trainer Mark Purdon says is likely to be put to the test. Adore Me is unbeaten and completely dominates the market for Friday night's Pascoes Northern Oaks even from the outside of the front line.
If she wins that classic, Purdon says he is keen to take on the boys in the Derby the following week.
While pacing fillies have won the Derby before, it is extremely rare for them to even tackle the great race these days.
In the past decade only Elect To Live and Tailamade Lombo have won major Derbys in Australasia against the males.
However, Adore Me has already beaten some of the best boys of her age, when winning at her debut at Addington back in October.
Since then she has looked a filly of staggering class.
She thrashed a top-class field in 1:52.4 for a mile at Ashburton last start, winning in a style which suggests had she been pushed she could have become New Zealand's first 1:52 pacer.
That was enough to convince Purdon she deserves her crack at the Derby, even though that means taking on a vintage crop, including Victoria Derby winner Ohoka Punter and Sires' Stakes winner Franco Nelson.
Even against a cluster of group one winning colts, Adore Me is rated a $2.70 chance for the Derby, ahead of Ohoka Punter at $4.50 with both Classiesistar and Franco Nelson on the third line at $5.
"Obviously, a lot will depend on what happens this Friday but at this stage she will go to the Derby," said Purdon.
The heats of the Derby will be run this Friday as Auckland Cup week kicks off at Alexandra Park.
The final Derby field and that for the Auckland Cup will be drawn at a function at Alexandra Park on Sunday, which will also feature huge coverage from Interdominion Final Day at Menangle, with live updates from the Sydney track.
That could prove the perfect build-up to the Cup as New Zealand's key Interdom contenders have indicated they will return from Sydney for the Cup five days later.
Terror To Love is all but certain to start in both races, as are Sir Lincoln and Mah Sish, while Bettor Cover Lover is being aimed at the Cup after starting in Sunday's A$200,000 ($246,000) Ladyship Mile.
The move is not without precedent though, with Monkey King winning the Auckland Cup three years ago, just five days after finishing second to Blacks A Fake in an Interdominion Final at Menangle.
With that in mind, Terror To Love has opened the $3 favourite for the Auckland Cup.By Michael Guerin Email Michael