The ITM/GIB Whangarei Gold Cup of 2018 has attracted an intriguing mix of older, proven stayers in Woodsman, He's Cavalier and Smedley versus the up and coming 4-year-olds in Major Tom, Jake The Muss, Kyrie Eleison and I See Red.
Major Tom could not have been more impressive in the way he won last start at Ruakākā over 2100 metres, but it was only a rating 75 graded race.
Is the 3kg weight differential to Woodsman, the top weight with 60kg, enough? Having Chris Johnson on board has to be worth several kilograms over the staying trip.
The press has reported that the Postponed 4-year-old Jake The Muss is in line for a trip to the NZ Cup at Christchurch in November.
If he is up to that class then he must fire tomorrow with only 54kg, leading rider Sam Collett on board and the stewards reporting that the horse did not get a clear run for the majority of the straight behind Major Tom.
I am sure if he wins the Cup will be seen at the Split Bar for a long time on Saturday night!
Could it be that these two fight out the local Cup and go on to be major chances in the NZ Cup over the extended trip of 3200 metres in November?
Rarely have we seen a full field of 2-year olds but race four, the Almanzor at Cambridge Stud over 1000 metres, has attracted a very competitive field headed by the last start Ruakākā winners in Jon Wick and Hapi Ella.
The other runners include several with very good trials or runs earlier in the season.
I suspect a number of these will be preparing for the Group 3 Northland Breeders Stakes over 1200 metres in the middle of September at Ruakākā.
Of the unraced runners, three caught my eye.
Firstly, Blue On Black from the Anne Herbert stable, with an impressive trial win at Cambridge back in March. In addition, the Herbert team has been stabled next to the course in the Logan Racing yards and working on the track, with Trudy Thornton visiting to test the horses.
Secondly, Von Trapp (by Swiss Ace) is unbeaten in three trials so he has been well schooled by Richard Collett and, if he wins, I may have to join in the drinks because I notice there is a Bill Colgan among the owners!
Thirdly, Call Me Murphy that is in the newly licenced team of Chris Gibbs and Michelle Bradley, who are both part owners of the Shamoline Warrior gelding.
The dam, Murphy's Cash, was placed in metropolitan Melbourne as a 2-year-old.
Although only second in its trial, the youngster missed the kick badly and, with that experience, may have improved enough to be competitive in this race.
Logan Racing is a commercial entity that has training stables in both Ruakāka and Singapore under the direction and control of Donna Logan, however, the stable can only be licenced in one jurisdiction, so Chris Gibbs has been the appointed trainer.
That changed this week when he was joined, somewhat prematurely, by long-term office manager Michelle Bradley.
Employed at the stable for more than 10 years, Bradley said she is humbled by the opportunity to join Gibbs in a training partnership.
"I have been here for 11 years now. I left school and worked for Kim Clotworthy for four years then I went to Japan for a couple of months and from there I went to Matamata to work for Paul Jenkins for 10 years."
Bradley spent some time in England working for Lady Tavistock at Bloomsbury Stud, before returning to work for Jenkins, where she first met Logan.
While working for Logan Racing Stables, Bradley took out her trainer's license and has recorded five wins from 44 starts in eight seasons of training.
Having trained a small team, Bradley is excited to take on the challenge of the much bigger barn of Logan Racing Stables.
The very promising Aim Smart is engaged in the Whangarei ITM rating 75 over 1400 metres for new trainer Lauren Brennan.
Aim Smart was runner up to the very fast Prom Queen in the Tavistock Northland Breeders' Stakes last September but then finished down the track in the Hawke's Bay Guineas.
A recent trial winner with Troy Harris on board, Aim Smart seems well forward for new trainer Lauren Brennan, after Tony Pike had guided the horse in its 3-year-old campaign.
Shaune Ritchie is a great supporter of the Ruakaka track and his runner, Conspirator, in the Fell Engineering Special Conditions Maiden, will be hard to beat and could help Andrew Calder have a successful day of riding.
The local stable of Gibbs/Bradley has five runners lined up in this event, with the impressive Marbles the best performed but Alesund must be due for a change of luck in running and will be greatly helped by drawing barrier one.
The last race, Spitroast Sunday Aug 12, has the top three weighted horses by Tavistock and all three are strong chances, as with the very unlucky Marzemino.
Topweight Cossastock is one of three brought to the track for the first time by Andrew Campbell, who recently re-located from the Central Districts to be based at Matamata.
All his three runners, not surprisingly, are by Tavistock, who he trained, with Tommy Hepinstall in the ownership.
Given the success of Logan Racing with Tavistock progeny at the track, they could all be worth following.
Despite the smallish sized fields the betting should be very competitive and there could be great value as you find a winner or two.
Tomorrow's race meeting is the close for the short winter season of three Saturday meetings across June and July.
There will be a month off before the club experiments with a Sunday meeting on August 12 before its two spring meetings - on September 1 and 15 - that end with the running of the Group 3 Northland Breeders Stakes meeting.