Saturday's Stratford Trots has the attention of top trainers across the country.
Attracted by a $3000 Top Trainer's award and with the Stratford Cup an automatic qualifier to the Country Cup final in May the competition is expected to be fierce.
Local trainers signed up include Jason Cossey running Rich Earl; Ian Martin (JR's Jem and River Time); Fred and Penny Mitchell (County Down and Roxanne), and Phil Flemming with Broadway and River Emperor.
Flemming, a Stratford trainer, almost pulled off a double at the recent two-day Kapiti Coast Harness Racing Club's meeting at Otaki when his stable star River Emperor took out the Merino Mobile Pace over 2000 metres on the first day, then was narrowly beaten into second in the 2000 metre Infinity Trust Mobile Pace on the final day.
These results were the mirror image of River Emperor's performances at the corresponding meeting last year when he won and finished runner-up on each day.
River Emperor's latest win was the 4-year-old gelding's third in 18 starts.
Driven by leading reinsman Maurice McKendry, he hit the front early in the run home after sitting just off the pace and held on to beat fast-finishing South Island visitor Crown Prince by a half-head.
Stratford Trots president Chris Hall says it will be a great day for punters but also a fun outing for families.
A memorial race will also be run in honour of Stratford life member Taffy (Evan) Bayly, who died last year.
Entry is free and there is a host of free activities for kids. Gates open at midday.