A series of odd, unrelated incidents have left the plans of some of New Zealand's best pacers in disarray.
But amid the chaos, Smolda has emerged as the favourite for Saturday night's $120,000 Ballarat Cup.
With millions of dollars of races crammed into the next two months, the pieces on the harness racing chessboard seem to be moving daily as trainers watch each other's moves as well as strive to get into the best races or lead-up races.
And the latter point is proving easier said than done, with Sky Major now likely to miss next week's A$400,000 Victoria Cup because his lead-up race at Alexandra Park this Friday didn't get off the ground.
"We are still looking at going for the Hunter Cup the following week but the Victoria Cup is unlikely now," said trainer Barry Purdon.
Canterbury star Locharburn had a similar problem, with the A$25,000 Pelorus Classic scheduled for Blenheim on Friday also canned after not attracting enough entries.
But the strangest reason for missing a race all weekend involves Auckland Cup winner Have Faith In Me, who was set to start in a A$50,000 four-year-old sprint at Menangle on Saturday until trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen missed the electronic nominations for their team because of technical problems.
Have Faith In Me will instead make his Australian debut in a A$22,000 race the same night, in which he has drawn one, but he now has to run top three in a four-year-old race on Saturday week to guarantee a spot in the A$200,000 Chariots of Fire on February 13.
Have Faith In Me will have a new driver for his Australian campaign, with Rasmussen taking over the reins for the next three starts.
That means Tim Williams, who snuck back from a suspension to win the Auckland Cup on him on December 31, misses out but the change is understandable as Rasmussen ranks alongside Dexter Dunn as the most potent New Zealand driver at Menangle, a track which often trips up those without experience there.
Have Faith In Me won't be the main focus of the All Stars stable on Saturday though as Smolda is likely to start favourite in the Ballarat Cup on a night that also sees Lazarus and exceptional trotter Monbet make their Australian debuts.
Smolda has drawn barrier five in the Cup, with Inter Dominion hero Lennytheshark on the second line along with Bling It On.
A weakish front line, which includes Mossdale Conner, suggests Smolda has a great chance of working to the lead and winning the first leg of the Victorian open class triple crown over the next fortnight.
The Kiwis started their Victorian campaign well when Ohoka Punter won the Shepparton Cup last Saturday in record time but he will miss not only Ballarat but the Victoria Cup. "His main aim is the Hunter Cup [February 6] so he can have this week off and maybe start in a standing start race on Victoria Cup night," said trainer Tony Herlihy.
Monbet faces an interesting challenge on Saturday, off a 20m handicap in a heat of the Australasian Trotting Champs against exciting local mate Arboe, with the Victorian TAB opening Monbet at $1.70 in what looks a two-horse race.
One Over Da Moon starts in the other trot heat for new trainer Chris Alford while Lazarus has opened a $1.25 favourite to win the first heat of the Victoria Derby.
He faces a tricky second line draw but the Australian three-year-old crop is not strong, having been dominated last season by Our Waikiki Beach, who will bypass this Derby series.
- Smolda is the likely favourite for Saturday's A$120,000 Ballarat Cup.
- His Auckland Cup-winning stablemate Have Faith In Me has a new driver for his Australian debut at Menangle the same night.
- Exciting trotter Monbet faces an interesting challenge when he has his first Australian start the same night.