After a day of drama the Victoria Cup is I'm Themightyquinn's to lose.
The former Kiwi pacer is being rated a $1.70 chance for the A$400,000 feature at Melton on Saturday night, in which he will meet four New Zealand-trained stars.
I'm Themightyquinn has drawn ideally at barrier three in the 2240m event as he attempts to break a Victorian hoodoo which has seen him win only once in seven starts in the state.
He will begin alongside Pukekohe pacer Gold Ace, who, from barrier four, could start second favourite once markets settle down.
While Gold Ace's trainer Steven Reid is thrilled with his draw, not so happy is Kumeu trainer Ray Green.
He produced the first shock of the day when he pulled Sir Lincoln out of the Cup just minutes before acceptances.
"He is still feeling the effects of a virus and didn't eat up on Monday night," said Green. "And it is futile going to a race like the Victoria Cup unless you are spot on."
His withdrawal intensified the battle for places in the race, a battle eventually won by Franco Jamar, yet another former Kiwi now trained in Australia.
But that wasn't until after Harness Racing Victoria bosses shocked some by selecting three other New Zealand-trained pacers in Mah Sish (barrier one), Pembrook Benny (seven) and Sushi Sushi (eight) for the great race. The latter two later drifted substantially in the odds after drawing badly.
That scrap for Cup spots tightened after Victorian trainer Scott Stewart confirmed Bitobliss as a starter even after a below-par performance at Cranbourne last Saturday. "We took some blood tests and they came back fine so at this stage we are definitely starting, with another test on Friday to make sure everything is still good," said Stewart.
The draw aided Terrorway (barrier two) but played against Smoken Up and Washakie, who will both start from the second line.
I'm Themightyquinn wasn't the only hotshot to draw perfectly yesterday, with two of the big names for Alexandra Park's premier meeting on Friday both drawing the ace.
Glamour mare Bettor Cover Lover could start as short as $1.50 in the Queen Of Hearts after drawing the inside barrier, while Bit Of A Legend will dominate betting on the Elsu Classic from the same marble.
Escapee, who chased home champion stablemate I Can Doosit last Friday, will be redhot in the Breeders Stakes for trotting mares as bookmakers prepare for another night of horror after nine favourites won in 12 races last Friday.
The meeting will also host the first northern 2-year-old race of the season, with Mark Purdon's recent star trialist Isaiah going into the race with plenty of hype around him.
Meanwhile, there was a maiden win of a different type at Alexandra Park yesterday when reinsman Jack MacKinnon drove his first winner.
MacKinnon is just 17 and was still at school until the end of term this year.
He partnered the David Branch-trained All About Speed to win.
The meeting saw another rarity, with champion young reinsman Zac Butcher winning the driver's challenge even though he had just two drives on the eight-race programme, both of which won.By Michael Guerin Email Michael