The clock is ticking for Star Galleria when the open class pacers make their earliest northern return in decades at Alexandra Park this Thursday.
The open class elite stars starting down the road to the New Zealand Cup in August was common 30 years ago but in recent years many haven't been seen until late September and with the north's struggling for consistent open class numbers the pre-Cup racing has been spasmodic at best.
But lock down and the loss of autumn harness racing has everybody ready to rumble a lot earlier and here we are five days into the new racing season with a serious open class race full of genuine New Zealand Cup hopes.
That is great for Alexandra Park on a night where they have been able to programme 12 races, including some of the better trotters also returning.
But the new-found early season depth to the open class ranks may not help Star Galleria admits trainer Steven Reid, who now prepares him in partnership with Simon McMullan.
Star Galleria has been something of a measuring stick for other northern open class pacers in the last two years, running second in an Auckland Cup and winning the first feature race of the season in 2018.
But now seven and with plenty of miles in the clock, Reid is trying something different.
"Some times I wonder whether his best days are behind him," says Reid.
"So we done something different and given him two quiet workouts the last two weeks, just tucked him in and let him do his thing.
"I think he has enjoyed that and to me he feels like he is flying and he could win this week without surprising me.
"But the new, younger horses come through like Copy That and then you have all Mark's (Purdon) horses down south so you realise how tough it is going to be.
"The New Zealand Cup is still going to be the aim but he will show is whether he can get there."
Reid says one positive about the far earlier return of the top horses to the track this season is it gives their trainers options on the way to the Cup.
"In recent years starting back in September if something went wrong and you missed a lead-up race the Cup campaign could be over.
"But now I think we all have more room to move."
Reid and McMullen will also bring their high-class three-year-olds Mr Fantastic and Shes No Lady back on Thursday night.