In Derby week for four of the last five years you just had to have the winners Mongolian Khan, Habibi, Silent Achiever and Jimmy Choux in your top two tips.

This time no one will look sideways at you if you plug for a $15 shot.

This is anyone's Derby and today's barrier draw will play a bigger part than usual. So no one will bad mouth Cambridge trainer Roger James for believing he has a chance with $16 shot The Hassler.

When James starts talking Derby it pays to listen - he's won it four times on his own. He also co-trained Tidal Light before that but he was very much the junior partner to Jim Gibbs at the time.

Advertisement

Although he's not declaring The Hassler, he is quietly confident of a big run.

"I'm very happy with the horse," said James, who has been successful with Roysyn, Zonda, Hades and Silent Achiever.

"I believe he has come right at exactly the right time."

Difficult to argue with that. The Hassler won two starts back at Te Rapa after a luckless stretch and covered a lot of extra ground when a handy fifth in the Avondale Guineas last time to the races.

He stuck on well in that after being the widest runner on the home bend, convincing James each step up in distance is going to suit the 3-year-old.

"He's always given the indication the 2400m will be ideal for him."

The evenness of the field is borne out in the TAB's fixed odds betting.

Avondale Guineas winner Rangipo is the $5 favourite ahead of Get That Jive at $6 and Brighton, Provocative and Valley Girl locked together on $8. Raghu and What's The Story are together on $12 and Humidor shares the $16 line with The Hassler.

The Ellerslie course proper was a slow 9 yesterday morning after 49mm of rain in the previous 72 hours. ARC racing manager Craig Baker believes a dead 5 for Saturday would be close to an accurate forecast. "There are no more showers predicted, but we have a good sole of grass on the track and a dead 5 for Saturday would be a good result."

Class mare Stolen Dance and Auckland Cup hope Storming The Tower galloped on the Ellerslie course proper which was opened to horses engaged in the two days of the Ellerslie carnival. The pair went 1000m together, but were not after time in the wet conditions.