A potential solid pace and some extra barrier practice this week might be enough to recast Savy Yong Blonk from villain to leading lady in the $250,000 Livamol Classic at Hastings tomorrow.
The testing mare is one of the few glamour gallopers in one of the weakest weight-for-age Group 1s held at the Hawke's Bay carnival in that it contains no Group 1 winner.
Beauden, Prise De Fer and Savy Yong Blonk stand out as the horses that have performed at open aged Group 1 or 2 level in the last 18 months, while Harlech is a 2000 Guineas placegetter, and Llanacord and Communique have the black-type credentials and form to at least be worthy of consideration.
But it is a rare Group 1 that contains rating 69 and 75 horses and the punting puzzle has been further complicated by the two most proven horses in the race in Beauden and Prise De Fer drawing the outside two barriers.
Punters may still gravitate towards them and the lack of depth in the race may tempt one or both of their jockeys to slide forward early and attempt to nullify their disadvantage in the run to the first bend but they are well short enough in the market.
Which leaves one of better mares of last season, Savy Yong Blonk, as an attractive each way bet if, and that is a big if, she can jump away and settle in front of at least a few rivals.
Savy Yong Blonk spent most of last season hitting the line hard in races such as the City Of Auckland Cup she won and the Waikato Cup, in which she finished second to Ocean Billy, who contests today's Caulfield Cup.
Savy Yong Blonk also stormed home on the first day of this carnival when she stormed into sixth in the Tarzino over 1400m.
But she gave punters a gut punch when she walked out of the starting gates and lost all chance at Te Rapa last start and that has forced trainer Jamie Richards to step up the barrier practice this week.
"She obviously can't afford to do that so she has had extra practice and really made to get out of the gates on Thursday," says Richards.
"She is well enough and if she can get out of gates well and settle in the field then she has a real chance, especially if there is tempo," he told the Herald yesterday.
That tempo could come from an unusual source for a Group 1 weight-for-age race in the form of nine-year-old Big Mike, who is drawn to go straight to the front, with southerner Tappy's One likely company.
If they head forward again and roll along, horses such as Beauden, Prise De Fer and Savy Yong Blonk can come from the back and wide and class may prevail.
But in a race containing some who may struggle and become equine road blocks from the 600m mark, if the tempo goes out of the race middle, stages then those back in the field will struggle and Masetto, drawn to get a nice trail, and the improving Harlech come into play.
It is a confusing and not very impressive Livamol compared with the great race it has been in the past or even recent seasons and you shudder to think what Melody Belle, Avantage or even Callsign Mav would have done to tomorrow's field.
So the opening 400m will be crucial and maybe Beauden's rider Ryan Elliot, empowered by always confident trainer Graeme Rogerson, will take bad luck out of play early and get his group one.
It may not be the best Livamol Classic field, maybe one of the worst for the event. But it is bound to be interesting.
What the experts say:
With a huge weekend of thoroughbred action ahead not only punters but trainers and jockeys are spoilt for choice.
Here is how some of New Zealand's best rated their leading chances:
Tony Pike: There You Go, Ashburton, R8: Progressive filly who has trained on well. Jumps in class but has the ability to take that step.
Andrew Forsman: Francesca, Rotorua R6: Has a big weight but classy mare with a good draw.
Jamie Richards: Brando, Hastings R6: Good quality horse with a good draw. He is well weighted and was a last start winner.
Michael Pitman: Zakunda, Ashburton R4: A promising stayer who finally gets a decent draw so can win this one.
Ryan Elliot: Mascarpone (Rotorua Sunday, R5): Huge run last start giving the winner 8kg and from the ace draw gets every chance.
Lance O'Sullivan: Two Madison, Rotorua R7: Racing in career best from and any rain would help.
Kozzi Asano: Dettifoss, Ashburton R9: Fresh-up and won well in maiden grade on this track and the economical barrier is a big help.
Terri Rae: Wekaforce, Ashburton R6: Good mare who has come up well so should go close.
Andrew Carston: Milford Sound, Ashburton R10: Forget he went around fresh-up, back to R74 and he is better suited and sting out of the ground would help, too.