David Green is not displeased Kawi will not oppose his mare Stolen Dance in tomorrow's $200,000 Harcourts Thorndon Mile at Trentham, but then nor would he be devastated if that were the case.
Arch rival is an overused word in racing, but it's almost certainly fair when applied to Kawi and Stolen Dance.
When they were both placed in the major group ones last season the scored ended at Kawi 2 - Stolen Dance 1 and they fought a couple of huge battles.
He beat her by a head in the $200,000 Zabeel Classic at Ellerslie on Boxing Day 2015 and next start by a long neck in last year's running of the Thorndon Mile.
When she finally beat Kawi by half a length in the $200,000 Herby Dyke Stakes at Te Rapa, the then unheralded Valley Girl beat them both.
David Green, a trainer who never overstates his case and is gracious in winning, was never concerned about facing Kawi last campaign and bases his confidence in tomorrow's big event on last year's result.
"They crawled in that race because there was no real pacemaker. She got out too late and couldn't bridge the gap to Kawi in time," clearly implying she may have beaten him with a different scenario.
"This time there is genuine tempo in the race and no Kawi. She will get her chance."
Green produced Stolen Dance in the spring with an attempt on a leg of the Hastings treble after a Ruakaka lead-up, but she could not manage the rain-affected tracks in what was a wet spring and was put aside to be set for the Thorndon.
She managed to scrape in by a nose in her second run back at Tauranga, but it was a much better run than it looks on paper. Everything went wrong for her despite a small field and she showed great heart to put her head out on the line to grab victory.
More importantly, rather than be temporarily damaged by the hard race, she has come away in absolutely great shape. "I couldn't get her any better," says Green.
Ironically, Stolen Dance will be ridden tomorrow for only the second time by Leith Innes, who last season did everything he could to beat the mare aboard Kawi. "Leith rode her once early in her career and everything went against them and they were beaten. He owes us one and I've told him," said Green.
Innes has been chasing the Stolen Dance ride for some time. He is good mates with the mare's part owner Gerald Shand. "He's said for a while that he wants to ride Gerald's first group one winner and he'll be all out to do that this time."
The TAB on Final Field betting opened up Stolen Dance and Volkstok'n'barrell at $4.60 equal favourites ahead of Ruud Not To at $5.80 and The Justice League on $7.80. With 59kg topweight Volkstok'n'barrell is up against it with Stolen Dance on 55kg, the same weight the mare carried into second a year ago. She has gone up two rating points since last year's race, but gets in at that weight because Volkstok'n'barrell has compressed the weights.
The Logan/Gibbs stable elected the Thorndon in preference to running much closer to home at Pukekohe tomorrow.
"We weighed them up closely," said Donna Logan. "We settled on Trentham because with 64kg at Pukekohe the risk if you rode him to not knock him around with the 64kg, the risk is you could come away underdone for the Herbie Dyke at Te Rapa next start which is his grand final.
"Then if he had a hard race under the 64kg you could flatten him. He's a terrific traveller so Wellington looked the right way to go.
"Chris said he travelled to Cambridge beautifully and will go on to Otaki in the morning and stay there and carry on to Wellington on Saturday morning.
"The trip and the race will have him perfect for Te Rapa."
Stephen Marsh's stable has been on fire and with four Thornton acceptors he stands a great chance of walking away with a decent part of the $200,000 stake.
Seize The Moment, Ruud Not To, Thee Auld Floozie and Serious Satire, the last three mares, will race from Marsh's stable. They are all in form and it is difficult to separate them.
The enigma horse The Justice League will be a serious threat if the A game arrives. It did when he resumed on Boxing Day at Ellerslie.
He may now be ready to live up to the enormous potential he has always promised.
Better this way around:
Devise (R6, Trentham): Found the right-handed
Ellerslie a bit tough last start, but two previous races this way
around were victories. The Ellerslie run was still attractive.
Easier: Rene (R4, Trentham): Made ground late over 1200m last week and drops in class to maidens as well as goes up to 1600m.
Classy: Saracino (R4, Pukekohe). Resumes in an open sprint after racing against the best in Australia. Has won fresh previously.