The connections of superstar filly Habibi have turned their back on one group one to aid their quest for another.
Co-trainer Donna Logan told the Herald yesterday she had spoken to Habibi's owners about a shock entry into the Darci Brahma International Stakes at Te Rapa this Saturday.
That would have meant taking on the older horses at weight-for-age over 2000m, a rarity for a 3-year-old filly in this country.
The International came into play for Habibi after she was allowed to miss the Waikato Guineas last Saturday because of the hard track.
"And I am glad we did that, I feel we made the right choice missing the Guineas," said Logan.
But the discussion about an International start didn't last long, she said.
"We raised it as an option but there were too many negatives.
"She would have been taking on older horses, going left-handed for the first time and she just doesn't need to do that.
"She has the Avondale Guineas on Sunday week, which was always our preferred option as her Derby lead-in.
"Yes, a group one win would be great to get this weekend, but the Derby is the group one we are really after."
Habibi has firmed in Derby betting, into $3.50, even after missing the Guineas.
That was driven mainly by the drift from $6 to $8 for one-time second favourite Weissmuller, who looked to be feeling the hard surface at Te Rapa.
Guineas winner Castlzeberg is into $6 second favouritism for the Derby, but his co-trainer Bob Vance has yet to commit to starting in the Avondale Guineas.
"It is likely but we don't need to make that decision until at least this week," said Vance. "But I think we can get away without another race before the Derby if we choose to go down that path.
"And we can always use the Breakfast with the Stars the Tuesday before the Derby as our final hitout."
The dominance of Habibi over the Derby market and the rollercoaster form of Weissmuller has all but stunted pre-post betting on the race.
And without many genuine lead-ups around the country this weekend the market could be stagnant until after the Avondale Guineas.
As much as Habibi dominates the market she has a long way to go to approach the sort of odds Silent Achiever was in the Derby last season.
The Roger James-trained sensation started an unbelievably short $2.10 when she won the classic.