Terror To Love and Mah Sish have had their Interdominion prospects enhanced.
As impressive as Terror To Love was at Alexandra Park on Saturday night the most important boost to his Interdominion chances might have come 12 hours earlier.
The magnificent entire easily beat his only two rivals, Sir Lincoln and Gold Ace, in their $50,000 Interdominion heat, the first of five heats run in four different cities on Saturday night under the radical new format for the series.
The win cemented Terror To Love's favouritism for the final at Menangle, outside Sydney, on March 3, with Aussie bookies having him at $2.75.
While the win showed he is in the same sort of form that has won him the past two New Zealand Cups, a totally unrelated incident in Victoria earlier on Saturday may yet prove more important.
Victorian ironhorse Smoken Up was scratched from the series after a vet inspection, meaning the final will have few hardened bully boys.
That gives the high-class acts who can race on the speed - Terror To Love and fellow Kiwi pacer Mah Sish - a possible huge tactical advantage over the best Australian hopes, I'm Themightyquinn and Caribbean Blaster, who are most potent when swooping.
Had Smoken Up been in the race the speed was guaranteed to be on, now the first lap of the marathon could be much less testing and play into the hooves of the Kiwis.
While he has won his New Zealand Cups coming from back in the field at the 800m, on both occasions Terror To Love has made mid-race moves and he showed when dominating the Flying Stakes at Ashburton in October he can win from in front at the highest level.
So he is now clearly the pacer to beat in the final, while Mah Sish has moved into third favouritism after his tradesmanlike win in the Sydney supplementary heat.
While he didn't win by much he never does and again he is favoured by being able to run on the pace, as he did winning on Saturday and in the Hunter Cup the start before.
Meanwhile, Perth trainer Gary Hall wants defending Interdom champion I'm Themightyquinn to "stick it up" his doubters once and for all in the great race.
I'm Themightyquinn was the other most dominant heat winner when he put a cricket pitch between himself and his Perth rivals to suggest he is back to the form that saw him win the title last season.
However, while he is the Prince of Perth, I'm Themightyquinn has been less potent in the eastern states of Australia, with numerous big-race defeats in Sydney and Melbourne.
Hall wants to erase that stain from the pocket rocket's record.
"There are a few people over there, including some of the so-called experts, who bag him and I don't think that is fair," says Hall.
"So more than anything else I want to go to Sydney and win to shut them up and prove how good this horse really is."
Hall says his greatest concern is the giant Menangle track, which oddly favours front runners in major races, and Smoken Up's scratching.
"It is really hard to come from back in the field there because the track is so good the leaders don't stop.
"If we are back and a horse like Terror To Love is on the speed, well it makes it incredibly tough.
"So Smoken Up being out actually hurts our chances."
In the other Australian heats, Caribbean Blaster didn't exactly dazzle when winning the Melton heat but still paced a fast last 800m after a week when he had suffered the effects of a virus and is better when not asked to lead.
The main Menangle heat saw Sydney star Excel Stride return to form but with the lead time in the race slow and the overall performance just adequate, he is still rated a $15 chance.
The barrier draw for the final will be conducted next Monday.
The 14 qualifiers for the final are: Terror To Love, I'm Themightyquinn, Mah Sish, Caribbean Blaster, Pub Blitz, Excel Stride, Chariot King, Washakie, Jaccka Clive, Keyang Cullen, Mach Alert, Mysta Magical Mach, Dasher V C, Lincoln Royal. Emergencies: Bitobliss, Devil Dodger.By Michael Guerin Email Michael