Addington Raceway plays host to an outstanding evening of racing on Thursday, with two heats of the Group 1 Rose & Thistle South Island Champs and three heats of the Group 2 Suck It Up Canterbury Futurity set to take place.
And if that wasn't enough, the first six races on the programme are heats of the $15,000 Springston Hotel Canterbury Futurity Sprint.
Talbingo Bale is the star attraction in the Group 1 South Island Champs heats, and he will start a dominant favourite in Race 8. Although he was beaten last start at Manawatu by the talented Mustang Charlie, his prior 29.88 victory in the Group 1 Waterloo Cup at Manukau was sublime, and he is expected to regain his winning form on Thursday.
"Whatever is against Talbingo Bale on Thursday is running for second from my point of view," laughed trainer Craig Roberts.
"He was being lazy on me again last week, but we got a post-to-post into him on Monday. He went well, and he'll improve with the run since he had a couple of weeks off."
Roberts also has several other chances in the Group 1 heats, including last year's upset New Zealand Cup winner, Dalisha Bale (Race 8), Bahati Bale (Race 8), Money Spinner (Race 7), Melville Bale (Race 7) and Oberon Bale (Race 7).
Of those runners, Roberts points to Melville Bale as his best hope. "I was a bit disappointed with him last time, and I would expect him to go a bit better this week.
"Oberon Bale is probably going to need the run. If he led, he'll be getting tired late but could still finish in the first four.
"Dalisha Bale isn't the same dog as who won the Cup – I'm looking at stepping her up to 600m and further soon.
"Bahati Bale is a bit of an enigma, but if she gets on the bunny, she's good. 520m is probably at the top of her range – she's not super strong."
Roberts also rates Carlos Jewel as a winning hope in Race 10, the second heat of the Canterbury Futurity. The son of Dyna Villa and Fimple Allen put in an eye-catching performance at Manawatu last start, when he settled last before flying home for second behind Federal Infrared in the $30,000 Matariki Stakes.
"If Carlos can stick within a couple of lengths of Opawa Wayne, it will be a great go between them. Carlos was massive at Manawatu last time – I actually thought he might have got there on the line!"
The heats of the $30,000 Canterbury Futurity sees the return to the racetrack of fan favourite, Opawa Superstar. The Jean and Dave Fahey-trained chaser hasn't been sighted since finishing third in the Group 1 NZ St Leger back on 13 May, and he will jump from Box 6 in Race 11 on Thursday night.
"He's had two trials," said co-trainer Dave Fahey. "The track wasn't very quick on those two days, so it's a bit hard to know yet, but he seems fine and he'll definitely improve off tomorrow."
Of the Faheys' five remaining Canterbury Futurity heat hopes (Opawa Gina and Opawa Chrissy in Race 9, Opawa Wayne and Opawa Anita in Race 10, Milky Tea in Race 11) Fahey is especially confident about the chances of Opawa Wayne.
"He's our next best, especially off Box 1. Opawa Gina and Opawa Chrissy are also going well, while Milky Tea has had a bit of an injury but seems alright now – she'll improve as well."