One of New Zealand's best mares has been given a shock snub by West Australian pacing officials, leaving her main summer target dangling by a thread.
Three-time group one winner Piccadilly Princess missed the cut for the A$50,000 mares race at Gloucester Park in Perth tomorrow night, even though she probably would have been favourite for it.
And while trainer Mark Purdon was stunned by the decision, he says he has nobody but himself to blame.
"When I first looked at the race it said a mares free-for-all and I thought she would be bound to get a start with her record," said Purdon.
"But I should have looked at the small print, which said preference would be given to M1 mares.
"So the handicapper was in the right, even though he had the discretion to put her in."
While Piccadilly Princess's latest New Zealand start was in near open class company against the likes of Dream About Me, Locharburn and Field Marshal, in Australia her three group one wins last season don't carry metropolitan penalties so she is assessed as an M0, metropolitan maiden.
Every starter in tomorrow night's A$50,000 Norm's Daughter is M1 or faster.
The problem is Piccadilly Princess now needs a metropolitan win to force her way into her main Perth target, the A$125,000 mares classic on December 9. "While I would have liked to have got a start in the mares race this week she does get a run in a A$23,000 race so I am hoping she can win that and qualify her for the December 9 race."
Piccadilly Princess is part of a rare three-strong Purdon team in Perth, with Smolda in the Inter Dominions which start tomorrow night while exciting four-year-old Mr Mojito tackles a A$125,000 four-year-old race.
Smolda has been discarded by Australian bookies after drawing the outside of the front line in his Inter Dominion heat, even though he doesn't clash with series favourites Lennytheshark or Hectorjayjay.
"The draw makes it very tough on this track but he will have to be put in the race," says Purdon.
"I am happy with him now. Initially he lightened up on the trip but is back to his proper weight.
"But the way they drive over here he could be wide for a big part of the race so it won't be easy to win."
Mr Mojito has drawn one on the second line in his 2536m mobile group one, which won't be run till 2.05am (NZ time).
"He is working well and I think he is our best chance this week.
"He is very strong and can work in his races, which he will need to do."
Meanwhile, Purdon says his New Zealand Cup hero Lazarus is likely to have his next start in Sydney as part of a four-race Australian campaign.
"He is likely to go to Menangle on January 21 and then to the Victoria Cup at Melton a week later," says Purdon.
But then in a surprise move, Lazarus could miss the A$500,000 Hunter Cup and return to Sydney for the Chariots Of Fire on February 11, therefore enabling him to qualify for the A$750,000 Miracle Mile on February 25.
And stablemate Have Faith In Me is going to be set for a defence of his Auckland Cup title after extensive vet tests failed to find anything wrong with him, even though he never looked comfortable before galloping in the New Zealand Cup.
"The vets can't find anything so we will keep pressing on toward the Auckland Cup and he will have a lead-up race up there. We will also nominate Dream About Me and Titan Banner for the Auckland Cup, with Dream About Me to have her lead-up in the mares races."