Young gun trainer Jamie Richards hopes he has one starting problem fixed ahead of a mammoth Group One double this Saturday but there is not much he can do about another.
Richards will line up three of his past Karaka Million winners in the space of a few hours on Saturday, with Melody Belle confirmed to join Avantage in the $200,000 Windsor Park Plate at Hastings not long before Probabeel contests the A$1 million Epsom at Randwick.
The late entry fee had to be paid for Melody Belle yesterday as she was never certain to start in the 1600m Group One after returning from a stunted Sydney campaign, but after a week off and a winning trial, she is now in the Windsor Park with Troy Harris to ride.
"I think she is happy to be home and she is ready to go a big race," says Richards. "But for all her class, she is coming off the back of a short break, and the trial she was in wasn't that strenuous, so there has to be some query over her race fitness."
Melody Belle and Avantage were the $3.20 equal favourites at the head of the Windsor Park futures market last night and who ascends to final field favourite will depend on this morning's barrier draw.
Danielle Johnson will again ride Avantage, with Te Akau's retained stable jockey Opie Bosson partnering Prise De Fer, whose 59kg he will be more comfortable with.
Avantage cost herself and punters when being a shade slow in the Tarzino Trophy 11 days ago, never looking entirely settled in the starting gates as a few rivals also held up the start.
"There were two things that upset, her barrier blanket and having a stallion drawn right next door to her," says Richards.
"So the barrier blanket comes off this week and she will wear a blindfold instead. That is put on before she goes into the stalls and one of the barrier attendants takes it off before they jump. We are hoping that helps keep her a lot calmer."
Asked to choose between his favoured mares pre-draw, Richards opts for Avantage because of her more recent racing.
He also reports unbeaten 3-year-old Need I Say More is right where he needs to be heading into Saturday's $100,000 Hawke's Bay Guineas.
While Richards is hoping keeping Avantage in the dark helps her in the minutes before the Windsor Park Plate, he is not so sure what anybody can do to help Probabeel from barrier 18 (starts from 17) in the Epsom.
The exceptional 4-year-old mare has had the perfect build-up to the glamour mile and gets in with just 52.5kg but now faces having a lot of horses in front of her starting the final 800m.
"It's less than ideal," says Richards. "We don't seem to have a lot of luck with barrier draws in Sydney but there isn't much we can do about it."
While 17 is hardly anybody's dream draw in a Group One mile, at least Probabeel is not a horse who has to be up on the speed and is probably most potent when allowed to find her feet early and wind up.
That and the fact the Epsom is often run at a quick tempo, coupled with some of the other major market players having also drawn wide, suggest Probabeel's chances are anything but extinguished.
The $1.7 million earner is still rated an $8.50 third favourite by Australian bookies, with Star Of The Seas the $5 favourite after he drew the ace.