He might not say so publicly, but Allan Sharrock is pretty much always confident when he takes Kawi to the races for a fresh-up race.
The Taranaki trainer hasn't slept much this week as a lightbulb of doubt sits on his brain as Kawi approaches the $200,000 NRM Sprint at Te Rapa tomorrow.
The reason is his stable star's mysterious 464 formline in three races in Perth in November and December.
Kawi finished fourth in the A$250,000 Lee Steere Stakes then sixth in the A$1 million Railway Stakes (1600m) and fourth in the A$1 million Kingston Town over 1800m the first week in December.
"I was always prepared for him to be below par taking him from Melbourne to Perth and racing him in 37 degree heat in that first race and he was very unlucky in the second start.
"But I thought I had him right at his top for the last run there in the Kingston Town and he disappointed me. To be honest, I'm in a quandary to know what happened.
"So, as a result of that I'm a bit reserved going into this race even though I'm very happy with my horse that he's exactly where I want him." Kawi won a 1000m barrier trial by five lengths at Foxton on January 17, running 59 seconds. "He's had two jumpouts and that trial, so he's done as much as I can do with him."
Kawi will be ridden by Melbourne-based Kiwi Michael Walker, who rode him in Perth, replacing regular New Zealand rider Leith Innes. "I thought a lot about a rider for this race," says Sharrock. "Leith and I have always been mates and we will be in the future, but racing's a tough game and sometimes you have to make these calls.
"One of the things that swayed me is that Mickey [Walker] put himself out to go to Perth to ride him and in those three races I've never see the horse relax as well as he did."
In Final Field betting the TAB has Kawi as the $3.90 favourite ahead of Start Wondering on $5, Perfect Fit $6.20, seeing it as a three-horse race with Heroic Valour back on $8.20.
Start Wondering was enormous in being beaten the smallest of noses by southerner Signify in the group one Telegraph at Trentham, in which he was not as suited as some by the weight scale under the conditions of the race.
He was left in front from halfway down the run in and Signify came at him very fast late and without taking anything from the winner Start Wondering would probably have been better suited if he'd seen the winner earlier.
Regardless, he looks the horse for Kawi to beat here. He has had only one start at this 1400m for nothing, but that is not something to worry about. Of more significance is that he won at his only start at Te Rapa, footing that can bring some horses undone at least at the first time of trying.
The No1 barrier didn't exactly work for Perfect Fit in the Telegraph when she ended up back along the rails in an awkward position on the home bend. She rattled down the home straight to be third, threequarters of a length from Signify. She has the opposite problem here, from barrier No13. She will definitely need luck because at group one level no favours are given.
Natuzzi, another track winner, Signify, Saracino and Heroic Valour are all chances for some of the money.
The 3-year-olds Savile Row and Jon Snow might have the edge on their older rivals in the $400,000 Herbie Dyke Stakes, a race that has seen a huge stakes increase thanks to the generosity of the family of the man whose name is perpetuated by the race.
Previously 3-year-olds had enormous records in these late summer/autumn weight-for-age races to the point where New Zealand racing had to alter the weight-for-age scale to eliminate the bias.
When Bonecrusher won in 1986 he was asked to carry 52kg, although Gary Stewart was slightly overweight. Three-year-olds have been raised 2kg and older horses 1kg.
Savile Row is the TAB Final Field favourite after a very stylish fresh R85 victory at Ellerslie and a close second to Hall Of Fame at Trentham. Jon Snow was just a breath behind Savile Row in that Trentham group one and subsequently went down narrowly to unbeaten filly Volpe Veloce.
Volkstok'n'barrell overcame a slow start to take fourth in the Thorndon Mile and is so much better off here at 2000m and under weight-for-age. Authentic Paddy is another honest type that is better suited going up to 2000m.
Best place bet:
Perfect Fit, R8 Te Rapa. She will need a touch of luck from a wide gate, but if she gets it difficult to see her missing the 1-2-3.
• Each way: Aotearower, R7 Te Rapa. Looked good in a strong field when third at Trentham. Small field here a help to a strong finisher like her.
• Deserves one: Crookshanks, R5 Te Rapa. Came from a long way off them to finish second at Trentham and ran into a good one in Miss Wilson. Deserves this.