Three-times PGG Wrightson national shearing champion Tony Coster, of Rakaia, has been installed a warm favourite to regain the title at the 53rd Golden Shears in Masterton next week.
Winner of the event and recognised as the country's top all-breeds shearer from 2009 to 2011, and leading the points going into the final qualifying round at Pahiatua on Sunday, Coster was a $2.75 favourite when odds were released by the TAB this week.
The TAB is also expected to release odds for the premier Golden Shears Open shearing and woolhandling championships today.
Coster is guaranteed a place in the top 12 qualifiers for the national without having to shear at Pahiatua but the situation's different for Southland's Nathan Stratford who is a $4 second favourite, despite teetering in 12th place and needing points to secure his position.
Fellow Southlander Darin Forde, a four-times winner who was runner-up last year, is third favourite, despite also needing points to secure his place, and heads 2012 winner and third-placed Angus Moore, from Ward in Marlborough but now living at Kaitangata, South Otago.
Golden Shears champion John Kirkpatrick, of Napier, is next despite having not previously reached the final of the event and the TAB is cautious on world champion Gavin Mutch, a Scottish farmer living at Whangamomona in Taranaki and who is at $15 while still needing a top placing in the Pahiatua show's heats to get into the top 12.
The points are based on placings on the compulsory opening round at the more specialist fine-wool merino championships in Alexandra in October, the full wool of Waimate's Spring Shears, the coarse wool Corriedales of the Canterbury Show, the national lambshearing champion at Raglan and this week's second-shear competition at Pahiatua.
Points are scrapped after the qualifying stages, and semifinals and a final will be shorn in Masterton on all five of the wool types, the winner decided on time and shearing points.
It's the 40th anniversary of the national, incorporating the McSkimming Memorial Triple Crown, first won by Waikato shearer Joe Ferguson in 1973.
The top 12 are: Tony Coster (Rakaia) 27, Grant Smith (Rakaia) 26, Angus Moore (Kaitangata) and John Kirkpatrick (Napier) 24, Gavin Rowland (Dunsandel) 23, Tony Nott (Blenheim) 18, Tom Wilson (Darfield) and Axle Reid (Taihape) 17, Darin Forde (Winton) 14, Chris Vickers (Palmerston) and Doug Smith (Ruawai) 13 and Nathan Stratford (Invercargill) 12.