Hastings shearer Rowland Smith is the bookies' favourite to win his first Golden Shears open title in Masterton next week, despite the presence of four others who between them have won 21 of the finals of the world's greatest shearing event in the last 23 years.
When betting opened late last week the 26-year-old Smith was paying $2.50, with defending champion and four-times winner John Kirkpatrick, of Napier, second favourite at $3, and Te Kuiti legend David Fagan next at $5 to win his 17th title, at the age of 51, and 29 years after he debuted in the final as runner-up to brother John in 1984.
Originally from Northland, from where he won the Golden Shears junior title in 2004 and senior title in 2006, Smith's favouritism is based on near all-conquering form since mid-January when he returned to competition after honeymooning in Hawaii with new wife and fellow shearing record-breaker Ingrid Baynes.
The 2011 New Zealand Open winner, he has won seven finals in four weeks, including a remarkable double a couple of weekends back, in Gore on Saturday and Pukekohe on Sunday.
Kirkpatrick has been in 12 finals during the summer but won just three - one in Australia, two in the South Island, and none in the North Island - while Fagan, who last won the Golden Shears Open in 2009, has won four finals this season.
About 60 shearers have so far entered the open in Masterton, which starts with heats on Friday.
There is also a book on the PGG Wrightson National, the final of which will also be held on the last night of the Golden Shears. Fifteen sheep of mixed breeds and wool will be shorn, culminating a competition which had five qualifying rounds throughout the country. The favourite for that event is Rakaia shearer Tony Coster.
Initial odds for the Golden Shears Open were: $2.50 Rowland Smith; $3 John Kirkpatrick; $5 David Fagan; $7 Cam Ferguson; $9 Dion King, $15 Nathan Stratford; $17 Gavin Mutch; $25 James Fagan, Darin Forde, Murray Henderson; $30 Digger Balme, Adam Brausch; $40 Doug Smith, Mark Grainger, Paerata Abraham, Tony Coster, Axle Reid.