Two factors are set to dominate the New Zealand Trotting Cup market after bookies declared they will bet any punter to win at least $20,000 on the great race.
After the first market on the November 8 classic opened last night, it is obvious standing start manners and the All Stars stable will be the centre of most pre-race discussion.
The All Stars have the first three favourites in the TAB's opening market, with Have Faith In Me the $3.40 top pick over Lazarus, who at $4.50 surprisingly shades Smolda, at $5.50.
Christen Me, who races in a A$200,000 group one in Brisbane on Saturday, is rated a $8 ahead of Titan Banner at $9.50. If the latter returns to the All Stars stable in the spring trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen could have four of the first five favourites in the Cup.
While Have Faith In Me is the reigning Auckland Cup winner he was very hit and miss from a standing start this season so bookies will keep an eagle eye on how he performs even at the trials.
"Obviously manners are going to be crucial but not just for him but also Lazarus, who doesn't have much experience behind the tapes," says TAB bookie Richard Wilson.
"So right from the time they start stepping out at the trials we are going to see people, including us, paying a lot of attention to how they behave." Wilson says the TAB is prepared to bet any punter to win $20,000 in the early Cup market, which lists 16 horses.
Not included in the opening odds is defending champion Arden Rooney, who has been all but ruled out by injury while Australia's stars of the moment Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay are almost certainly heading to the Inter Dominion in Perth.
The All Stars total domination of the Cup market is rare even for them and the reports on Have Faith In Me's development are good.
"He hasn't gotten a lot taller but he has definitely filled out," says stable rep and Auckland Cup winning driver Tim Williams.
"He looks like a real little Bettors Delight now, very strong and nuggety.
"I drove him in an easy hopple up this morning, which is about his fourth this campaign, and so far so good." Lazarus being second favourite considering he has only ever raced his own age group is a surprise while Smolda is no certainty to make it to the Cup as he could instead target the Inters in Perth.
One of the bigger market shocks in Auckland Cup runner-up Hughie Green opening at $31, with his stablemate The Orange Agent not listed, although available on request for any punter.
While the All Stars stable has powered down for much of the last month that changed yesterday as Pacing Major and Partyon looked sharp at the Ashburton trials as they prepare for their coming Breeders Crown assignments.
And the stable's Breeders Crown involvement stepped up at Menangle in New South Wales too where Our Waikiki Beach bounced back after his first career defeat to win his ABC heat yesterday, taking his record to 20 wins from 21 starts.
Stablemate My MacKenzie won her three-year-old fillies heat as well but the stable faces a different challenge in the non-tote heat at Addington on Friday night.
Harness Jewels winner Heaven Rocks may only meet two rivals but one of them is Franco Christiano, who has a huge advantage in race fitness after two recent wins.
The TAB plan to offer fixed odds betting on the heat providing it is covered live by Trackside.
NZ Cup market
• $3.40, Have Faith In Me.
• $4.50, Lazarus.
• $5.50, Smolda.
• $8, Christen Me.
• $9.50, Titan Banner.
• $11, Locharburn.
• $13, Tiger Tara.
• $15, Field Marshal.
• $18, Ohoka Punter.
• $26, Franco Nelson, Hug The Wind.
• $31, Hughie Green.