Stephen Marsh may well be producing the favourite Thee Auld Floozie into tomorrow's $200,000 Fiber Fresh Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes, but he has a lot of hope around Sofia Rosa.
Hope that a set of blinkers will convince the class mare to produce her best again.
When Sofia Rosa steps out at Te Rapa about 4.20pm tomorrow it will be one day and two hours short of a year since she stamped herself the 3-year-old Australasian champion staying filly with victory in the $1.1 million Australian Oaks at Randwick.
Things haven't quite gone the same way since. Three spring starts in Melbourne proved unsuccessful and she returned here for a break and an autumn campaign.
The third behind Kawi and Start Wondering at weight-for-age at Otaki two back looked good on paper, but did not totally satisfy Marsh.
"She really motored the last 100m, but up to then she was mucking about." Marsh is reasonably confident the often-temperamental mare will switch on her concentration because of the blinkers. He's not at all worried about her failing to fire in the Ranvet Stakes in Sydney last start.
"That track was one of the heaviest I've seen. Blake Shinn said she was travelling okay while he had hold of her head and the minute he let her head go she sank, to use his words."
The TAB has Thee Auld Floozie favourite at $3.70, with Mime at $4.20, Sofia Rosa at $6 and Miss Wilson and Rasa Lila on $8.
You have to acknowledge that in winning the group one Thorndon and group two Westbury Classic in her last two starts, Thee Auld Floozie has found three lengths from somewhere.
'She's rock solid," says Marsh. "She's well placed in this on level weights because last start at Ellerslie she was giving them all weight and she won well." Thee Auld Floozie narrowly beat Mime in that Ellerslie race.
Mime goes up 1kg and Thee Auld Floozie comes down 1kg, but balancing that is that Mime - although she races well fresh - should have slightly improved fitness levels this time.
Mime and Blake Shinn enjoyed a saloon passage from an inside gate at Ellerslie and she and Jason Waddell should do the same again from the No3 barrier. She is one from one at Te Rapa and although versatile in terms of track conditions she seems at her best with some easing in the ground.
Rasa Lila is the opposite. "The better the footing, the better she will go," predicts co-trainer Stephen Ramsay. "She's very well and she goes well when she's fresh, but if the track is too rain affected it will come down to a slog. On a good surface she will go a very good race."
Worth remembering is Rasa Lila's form this time last year when she finished a close third in the Easter Stakes at Ellerslie then won the Travis Stakes on this track. In the spring she was a long head and half a head from Kawi and Mime in the group one Windsor Park Plate at Hastings.
Miss Wilson is the interesting runner. She looked a coming headliner before she went to Melbourne to be trained. She won a race there, but did not find her peak and was returned home.
She is unbeaten in four starts since under John Bary's care and has been stylish in those victories.
One hurdle facing her this time is that she's racing at level weights with Thee Auld Floozie, Rasa Lila, Mime and Sofia Rosa, all of whom have won significantly more in stakes.
Te Rapa tips
• Absolute class:
Let Me Roar, R7, Te Rapa. Won as if she'd just joined in when fresh at Tauranga. Should be even fitter for this.
• Can step up: Cote D'Or, R4, Te Rapa. Impressive coming through the grades. Gradually learning and should cope with open company first time.
• Forgive: Odisha, R6, Te Rapa. Things went wrong last time. Twice a winner on this track.