The trainers of the two 3-year-old favourites, Warhorse and Misstrum, Jason Bridgman and Roger James, are both praying for a decent track at Ellerslie tomorrow.
Warhorse is ready to tick over with a top effort in the $50,000 Manuka Doctor Bonecrusher Stakes, says Bridgman, but he is wary of the weather forecast, which has promised rain for a couple of days.
Ellerslie was rated a Dead (4) yesterday.
Warhorse could finish only fourth as the $2.60 favourite in the HS Dyke Wanganui Guineas on September 8, but Bridgman warns not to judge the colt's chances this time on that performance.
"The 1340m was always going to be a tough assignment fresh from a spell, plus the rain-affected track was no assistance to him.
"He was in the worst part of the track and was just getting going when he received a bump and put him off stride. He couldn't get going again otherwise he'd have finished only one length away from them.
"With everything considered I thought it was a very good run."
Bridgman said Warhorse's work this week has been his best of this spring preparation.
"We've had some decent footing to work on for a change and it's made a difference.
"He'll be okay on Saturday provided the track is somewhere in the dead to slow range."
At level weights, Warhorse is well placed in this field as a group one winner. He was the promoted winner of the Haunui Farm Diamond Stakes at Ellerslie in the autumn.
He holds a nomination for the 2000 Guineas at Riccarton.
Dorian Gray resumed with a close second to talented filly Kate on the first day at Hawkes Bay and is a probable improver.
Macka's Back and Neo are other chances in an even line-up behind Warhorse.
Roger James says his wishlist for Misstrum in tomorrow's Macleans Soliloquy Stakes at Ellerslie included a barrier trial going into the race.
Unfortunately that wasn't possible.
"With the barrier trials having been cancelled more than once it meant that to give her a trial would have been too close to racing first-up over 1400m," said James on Thursday. He warns not to dismiss Misstrum as a result.
"It's a stakes race and she's not in there for fun."
As a juvenile last season, Misstrum showed group-rated ability and scope to possibly go right to the top.
After two stylish runs over 1200m and 1400m, the filly won the Graeme Thomson Jewellers Stakes at Ellerslie.
"I thought her first two runs were very impressive, that's why I wasn't worried about her going into a stakes race as a maiden," said James.
In her win, Misstrum took most if the home straight to wind up, but once she was she quickly dashed past About Square and one of her rivals this time, Twilight Granita.
James' main aim with the Australian-bred filly is the 1000 Guineas at Riccarton, a track which should suit her ideally.
"She's going to need the 1600m quite quickly. I can't wait to get her to Riccarton."
Misstrum will be ridden by Leith Innes, who was aboard in her previous victory.
Cambridge filly Kelly O'Reilly made a lasting impression when she won by 2.3 lengths on debut at Taupo a couple of weeks ago. That win followed two impressive barrier trial victories.
Trainers Tony Pike and Mark Donoghue hold a strong hand with Best Command also engaged. Best Command similarly won on debut at Taupo and was then beaten into third by half a length in the fillies' stakes race at Wanganui after drawing wide and leading. She has drawn better at No 5 this time.
Even though it was a stakes race compared with the maiden class the time before, Hollywood Angel dropped a couple of lengths off her form in the Wanganui stakes race.
A slow start did not help and if she produces a similar effort to her maiden success, she can be right in this race. Twilight Granita is another in the mix.By Mike Dillon Email Mike