Champion driver Maurice McKendry isn't sure whether Hughie Green is right back to his best.
However, that still might be good enough to win the Holmes D G at Alexandra Park tonight.
Hughie Green looks the favourite for the $20,000 feature, which is named in honour of late ATC president Kerry Hoggard, a man who did so much to secure the future of the club before his sudden death this year.
Hughie Green beat many of tonight's rivals in the Spring Cup over 2200m a fortnight ago and while he remains on a 10m handicap, the step up to 2700m would seem to suit for a horse who pushed Have Faith In Me so close in the Auckland Cup last December.
Yet, while winning form is good form, especially for punters, McKendry says there is more gas in the tank with Hughie Green.
"He won well last start but there is improvement in him," says only the second driver to rein 3000 winners in New Zealand.
"He got better with every run at the workouts before his first start and that was a good win but he can go better again. "But he even went better than we have seen for a while when he is at his absolute best.
"When he was winning some of those races at three or even last year he was awesome."
McKendry says the potential for traffic problems early is always a concern with starting from the inside of the 10m mark but Hughie Green was brilliant away last time and looks tractable early so it wouldn't surprise to see him land in the first half of the field.
While he will carry the bulk of punters' money tonight, fellow 10m marker No Doctor Needed is the one with the most on the line tonight as the race is his final trial for a trip to Addington for the New Zealand Cup.
He has consistently improved this campaign and with the luxury of being drawn outside Hughie Green, if he can get in front of him he could make a mid-race surge for the front.
That makes him backable each-way if he gets close to $5.
Barry Purdon has four in the race and all have a chance, with The Faithful one of the big improvers in the northern intermediate ranks this campaign but exactly which of his quartet is the best hope could be determined by their early manners.
McKendry drives Hughie Green's stablemate Neighlor in what should be the other race of the night, the Sires' Stakes heat.
He was excellent winning two weeks ago, but McKendry rates him very much an unfinished product.
"I really like him but he is still learning and it is a good field."
The speedster Vasari returns for his 3-year-old debut but the hot favourite will be Star Galleria, who sat parked to win the Cambridge heat and was electric at the Pukekohe workouts last Saturday.
While the focus in the South Island this weekend will be on Sunday's Methven Cup, last season's champion 3-year-old trotter Marcoola returns at Addington tonight and after a stunning trial at Ashburton last week he is in a winnable trot.
Three for Friday
• Best bet: American Empress (Alex Park, R1): Improvement curve has been sold and can work to overcome draw.
• For Odds: Bro Fawkes S (Alex Park, R3): Manners should put him handy in a field without many horses good enough to work and win.
• Forgive: Blackguard's Corner (Alex Park, R5): Got parked early on hot tempo last start and faded. Earlier trials were good.