Australia's challenge for the Karaka Million lasted roughly one day.
On Tuesday morning the sole Aussie rep in Sunday's $1 million thriller, Minaj, galloped in superb style at Ellerslie. By yesterday a temperature had forced her out of the 1200m dash for cash.
Trainer Anthony Freedman, looking to defend the title Ockham's Razor won for the stable last season, said the filly was not at her best and simply couldn't start. She was the surprise withdrawal at acceptances and after a day of controversy race favourite Ruud Awakening is set to start a dominant favourite.
She drew ideally at barrier seven, made even more important by unbeaten colt Gobi Ranger drawing barrier 14, to start from 13 if the emergency comes out.
Fantastic Honour, who made a hash of the start of her Ellerslie debut on January 1, gets the ace while Catalonia has drawn barrier six for new rider Opie Bosson.
While that draw will please trainer Jason Bridgman, the searing Auckland summer does not. "I couldn't be happier with my horse but I am not happy with how dry it has been.
"I am not saying he can't win on a really firm track but I think it brings him back to the pack and makes him just one of the chances in the race.
"If there was some rain then it would aid him and probably disadvantage some others because he is quite a heavy colt. But that isn't going to happen, so all we can hope for now is a really hot pace."
Bridgman believes Catalonia is better suited to 1400m and says the recent trend of northern juvenile races being jump and dawdle does not suit him.
"While I have nothing but respect for horses like Ruud Awakening and Gobi Ranger, they have been able to get some easy leads and soft sectionals. I am hoping that a few riders get that $1 million feeling on Sunday and they go really hard, which might help our cause a bit."
While all eyes will be on Ellerslie on Sunday night, there is still the Wellington Cup Day on Saturday. Ransoming is the $5.50 favourite for the Cup, which has lost some of its lustre since being reduced to 2400m.
Last Saturday's outstanding lead-up winner O'Fille shares the second line of betting with Chaparrone at $7.By Michael Guerin Email Michael