Sam Smolenski has good and bad news for the connections of his arch-rival Blitzthemcalder in the ultimate two-horse race at the Harness Jewels on Saturday.
The goods news is he's adamant his charge Royal Aspirations will be on his best behaviour, which is critical to the chances of Blitzthemcalder because he is drawn to follow him through at the start of the $100,000 three-year-old trot at Ashburton.
The bad news is, Smolenski says Royal Aspirations has never been beaten in front, and he thinks that will still be the case after Saturday.
The pair dominate betting on their division, having trotted national records in their past two meetings that even challenge the fastest times ever by open class trotters in this country.
They are members of the new breed of prolonged-speed trotters but they also come with their tricks, including vicious over-racing, hanging and galloping. With Royal Aspirations drawing barrier one on Saturday if he trots straight to the front and Blitzthemcalder follows him through to trail it will set up a thrilling last 400m.
First, Royal Aspirations has to trot, as he galloped last time he started in a mobile at Ashburton.
"I think he will be fine because he has improved manners-wise a lot lately," says Smolenski, who drives the colt for his grandfather, trainer Fred Fletcher.
"He has real gate speed and with his manners being good I won't be scared to use it. So I am very confident I will lead."
So good, so far for both horses and their army of punters and there will be plenty thinking Blitzthemcalder will have too much speed if he trails and gets a clean shot at the leader.
Smolenski doesn't buy into that.
"If I lead I don't see any pressure in the race and I know this horse can trot his last 400m in 27 seconds.
"Blitzthemcalder is a really good horse but I think he is a big stayer and I doubt he can trot 26 seconds to beat us.
"I think my horse has more speed so will be too quick."
TAB bookies don't agree, surprisingly listing the Aussie trotter the $1.80 favourite after a big workouts' win last Saturday, with Royal Aspirations at $2.40.
Bizarrely, the pair are quoted the other way around by the Australian TAB. While it would be easy to dismiss Smolenski's confidence as that of a young driver in love with his favourite horse, his Jewels record is unbelievable.
He has had three drives at the Jewels for two wins and a second, including Royal Aspirations' 1:56.5 destruction job in the juvenile Jewels last season.
If he goes quicker again on Saturday, Blitzthemcalder is going to have a race on his hooves.