Allan Sharrock doesn't apologise for much, but he was only a touch away from apologetic when talking about Kawi's chance in tomorrow's $200,000 Windsor Park Plate.
"He's really improved since winning last start," he said almost shyly and Sharrock, Red to his mates, is not one of the human race's shy individuals.
"Honestly, he's a better horse than when he won the Makfi", which is a terrifying thought for connections of the opposition.
That opposition never looked like beating Kawi on the first day of the three-day Hastings carnival. Yes, many of that group will have improved in fitness, but then so, too, has Kawi.
"His coat has come right out and his work on Tuesday was nothing short of sensational."
Even factoring in that New Zealand punters, unlike Australians, shy away from short-priced favourites, you could make a case the $1.85 for Kawi yesterday looked almost generous.
Kawi's presence has completely stifled the betting for the TAB.
"He's holding 90 per cent of the Final Field betting," says TAB bookie Thad Taylor. The TAB opened Kawi at $1.90 in the Final Field book and has come in only five cents despite the avalanche of money for the favourite.
"We had a $5000 bet at the $1.85 today," said Taylor yesterday, "and plenty of other decent bets."
The only other interesting betting move is the money for resuming mare Rasa Lila, who will be ridden by former Pukekohe jockey Jason Collett, more recently riding successfully in Sydney, predominantly for the unstoppable Chris Waller.
Chris Johnson had originally been booked for Rasa Lila, but he decided to stay back in Canterbury for Starvoia for tomorrow's $50,000 NZ Bloodstock Canterbury Stakes, a horse he has a big opinion of and one he hopes to ride in the 1000 Guineas. Collett became the replacement.
The TAB opened Rasa Lila at $16 in the Futures market and by the time that market switched to Final Field, the mare was into $7. "There was a significant amount of money and at the moment Rasa Lila is a losing result for us in the Futures book," says Taylor. "The money has dried up in the Final Field because all the big bets were placed in the Futures and her current price should hold pretty steady."
El Pescado was at $30 in the Makfi, but after his big finish into second he is in single-digit mode.
The 1000m mark at Hastings, rather than the winning post will probably decide tomorrow's $70,000 Gold Trail Stakes.
If you back classy filly Bella Gioia you should know the extent of your winning chances after 200m.
At that stage it will be obvious whether Danielle Johnson has been able to get Bella Gioia into a decent spot from their awkward barrier at the tricky Hastings 1200m start.
If she does, Bella Gioia's superior fitness on most of her rivals might be just about enough to complete a treble of wins from three starts this preparation.
"She's had two starts this preparation and most of the others have had either one or are resuming," says trainer Shaune Ritchie.
"She's probably starting to look for 1400m now, rather than the 1200m of this race, but there should be plenty of pace on and that will suit her late in the race."
Sassy 'N' Smart looks a real danger. She is all class, but needs decent footing to produce her best, something she did not find in the group one at Manawatu in her final start for the old season or at her Te Teko barrier trials.
"We are more than happy the way she's been coming up," says co-trainer Stephen Autridge. "But the footing will need to be good on Saturday."
Mystery Show is under-rated and there is no shortage of talent in the likes of It's Time For Magic, Volpe Veloche and Gold Rush, as well as some emerging types.
Stephen Autridge travels back to Melbourne this weekend to supervise the run of Shillelagh in her Australian debut in the opening race at Caulfield. "She has been flying lately."
Backing a winner
• This is easier: Ryan Mark (R5, Hastings). Not that far away behind Valley Girl when big in condition on resuming at Ruakaka. Gets 3kg off his 60kg in a handicap and his class and better fitness this time to aid him.
• Value: Profile (R9, Hastings). Resuming and has won her only race when fresh. Has shown plenty of promise.
• Each-way: Her Choice (R7, Taupo today). Better run last time than it looked. Just beaten on this track two back.