Key Points:

A wagon-full of black type has gone west since Rowdy Yates was an early favourite for the 2004 New Zealand Derby, a race he failed to even contest.

But co-trainer Finbarr Leahy, for one, isn't giving up on big-race dreams yet, two seasons on since the Cambridge gelding was the talk of early Derby markets before he'd run a single race.

Leahy is confident the now 5-year-old, who has been plagued by niggling injuries and maturity problems, can announce his Auckland Cup aspirations at Avondale today.

"If he comes up to where we think he can, there's no reason why he couldn't be an Auckland Cup horse later in the season," said Leahy, who trains in partnership with Tony Pike.

"He's always shown plenty of ability at home but it's just been a question of getting his brain and body right - they're little problems that take a long time," Leahy said.

The penny looks to have finally dropped judging by Rowdy Yates' two tune-ups for today's R92 2000 with regular rider Vinny Colgan.

He ran a stayers' fresh-up fifth over 1600m at Matamata on October 7 behind the promising Aftershock, before a luckless fourth to the exciting Sharvasti over the same trip at Te Aroha 11 days later.

"He got held up at a vital stage last time," confirmed Leahy. "He was never going to win, but would have run second or third with the right run.

"He's been crying out for 2000m for a long time and after two 1600m runs he's going to be ready for this."

Everything has fallen into place today - the draw, the weight and a modest field - except for one potential stumbling block; Auckland's dire spring weather.

While Rowdy Yates has winning form on soft ground, Leahy wouldn't like to see the penetrometer slip into the mid to late threes.

Stablemate Deferred comes with an even sterner weather warning.

In fact, a start for the 3-year-old was in serious doubt yesterday with the track at 3.1 and still more showers on the horizon.

Leahy said the weather won't, however, worry Mango Tree who he rates a good each way chance in the maiden 1400m.

Stablemates Twisting (race three) and Bizz (race eight) are also win hopes in their respective assignments.

Twisting had a slight bang on a joint since her impressive trials win at Cambridge a month back, but has shaken that off.

If she runs up to the promise she showed in two starts last season Leahy expects her to go close.

He's also tipping an improved effort from former South Islander Bizz who had little luck last time out at Hastings.

"She's flying," said Leahy. "With a clean run she should go close to winning."