Yesterday's $100,000 Sarten Memorial at Te Rapa did little to confirm absolute favouritism for the 2000 Guineas at Riccarton.
What it did achieve was convince everyone what a cracker of a race the group one classic on November 5 will be.
Ugo Foscolo and runner up Mongolian Falcon showed they will be big chances for top honours next up in the south with their 1-2 result and Mongolian Falcon's stablemate Wyndspelle left little doubt he would also be a major player with his third placing.
Something of an on-pace bias through the Te Rapa card played a part in the result, although honours were fairly shared by the first two.
Michael Coleman on Ugo Foscolo was posted three wide in midfield at the end of 220m and pressed forward to lead when a touch of the pace went out of the race.
The effort to achieve that was going to make it difficult to hold on late, but Ugo Foscolo dug in for the fight and narrowly held out the hard-ridden Mongolian Falcon.
Trainer Stephen Marsh was delighted Ugo Foscolo produced his best form
on the eve of his spring Grand Final.
"That was truly a good run, given the work Michael had to do on him to get the front," he said.
Donna Logan and training partner Chris Gibbs will also go to Christchurch with a measure of confidence around Mongolian Falcon and Wyndspelle.
"How could you not be delighted with two runs like that?" asked Gibbs.
Mongolian Falcon led almost throughout to win the Hawkes Bay Guineas at his previous start, but this time Leith Innes, aware there would be plenty of pace in the race, restrained the colt into the trail.
He has been slow picking up the mental maturity for racing, but has learned with each experience and the keenness he produced when asked to take a trail should be his final university exam.
The way the previous races had played out on the day Wyndspelle looked an impossible chance when back with the tailenders approaching the home turn.
Even allowing he got a good run through the middle of the pack, he was superb with his finishing effort.
"They have had perfect preparations for Riccarton," said Gibbs.
"There will be no excuses if we get a decent track at Riccarton."
Xiong Feng held his ground late and the filly Bella Gioia was never a chance to make ground from second last. It should be a different story for her against the fillies in the 1000 Guineas at Riccarton.
Thee Auld Floozie's travelling fund for Christchurch was further swelled by another timely deposit at Te Rapa.
Following her previous success at Rotorua earlier this month, a dominant display from the 5-year-old saw her also claim the lion's share of the stake in Monday's Seafood Bazaar 1600.
Thee Auld Floozie's odds have now been trimmed from $18 to $10 for the Coupland's Bakeries Mile while Seize The Moment, a sound fourth behind his stablemate at Te Rapa, has gone the other way and he is now an $18 chance for the feature.
"She had a beautiful weight [54kg] today and that will top her off nicely for the Coupland's," trainer Stephen Marsh said.
"She's a very good mare and from the inside draw she was always going to be a big player if she jumped okay."
Bring on round two
• Ugo Foscolo redeemed his failure at Hastings by winning the Sarten Memorial yesterday.
• Stablemates Mongolian Falcon and Wyndspelle lost no admirers in chasing the winner home.
• Bella Gioia showed she would be a chance for the 1000 Guineas.
- additional reporting: NZ Racing Desk