If he is beaten any one of half a dozen could pick up the prize while Volkstok'n'barrell looks likely in Bonecrusher.

Memories of outstanding sprinter Sacred Star's horror season until last Saturday will be obliterated with victory in the same colours for Sacred Master in this Saturday's $500,000 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup.

And with it the Tony Pike train will regain full momentum.

Surely no horse has come from a maiden at the beginning of the season to win an Auckland Cup. That was impossible when, until recently, the Cup was run on January 1. Five months to come from the dunce class to winning our premier 3200m was unheard of. Even now, with a couple of extra months tacked on, it looks like Mt Everest, but it strongly appears it's about to be achieved.

Sacred Master, perhaps appropriately, won his maiden on the first day of the season, August 1 at Ruakaka.


His march to fame in just eight further starts has been nothing short of remarkable and there is a strong level of confidence in the camp he can cap off his campaign in magnificent fashion, even if 3200m will be unfathomed depths.

If he is beaten any one of half a dozen or more could pick up the prize. Benzini is one of them. He was sixth in this race last year in his first 3200m and subsequently wound up a very good, if distant, third to Jimmy Mac in the New Zealand Cup at Riccarton in November.

His lead-up form has been good and he rates highly.

If the track is firm Pentathlon will go close to avenging his narrow defeat in the Wellington Cup. He is a natural ultra distance type and Chris Johnson, despite his first ride on the horse, will provide his usual wily ride. Guarantor, Sampson and Decorah are others to consider.

The odds will not be flash, but Fully Funded (No2, R1) is not a bad way to start the day. He was not beaten by much last start after doing a bit of work and he has drawn a gate to provide him with the run of the race this time. Hunapo (No9) is an underrated speedster and looked ready for this galloping at Ellerslie on Tuesday morning. His 3kg claim will be a big assist.

The barrier draws have ripped Race 2 apart. Most of the form horses have drawn off the track. If you have to bet, Irish Call (No2) has looked good in just two starts and has been freshened since last racing. Tough race with the barriers completely clouding the issue.
Palace Rock (No3, R3) should go close to winning. She hasn't had all the luck in recent starts and was left in front and caught on the line by stablemate Marciano here last start. Thatsforsure (No13) had no luck in the special conditions race last week, being axed back at the start and missing out on clear running in the final 220m. This race is a bit tougher, but don't underrate her.

Sound Proposition (No4, R4) was upset by a rain affected track last start and couldn't let down. He went exceptionally well for third fresh from a break and this race looks a good opportunity for him. The No 1 barrier shouldn't do his chances much harm, although he probably appreciates galloping room. Waipipi Lad (No9) is a fraction underrated, especially when it comes to toughness. He didn't get the best of runs last start and Lisa Allpress should have a better grasp of him this time.

Plenty of chances in Race 5. Enough (No11) has shown sufficient ability in winning two of his three starts to suggest he can go all the way. He has been taken quietly by John Bell, who made a special trip to Ellerslie last week to give the big bloke a sight of the track in galloping mode. This race should define just how good he is.

Gracehill (No15) often comes in under the radar, but she is talented and can go close here.

The $200,000 Sistema Diamond Stakes is the gem of the day for this column. Sassy'N'Smart (No11), Mongolian Falcon (No4), Heroic Valour (No3), Gasoline (No6), Xiong Feng (No1) - what a 2-year-old race, let's hope every runner gets equal luck and the result is definitive. Adding to the intrigue is Sassy'N'Smart's temperament at the barriers. She was slow away in the Matamata Breeders last start and did a massive job looping the field to charge home and be beaten a nose.

It was the run of a filly who knows where the winning post is and that's going to be important this afternoon.

Mongolian Falcon started racing with no idea where the winning post was, or any other post, but has grabbed knowledge with each start.

He did remarkably well to come from last in a small field at Matamata to finish a breath behind Heroic Valour, who is also learning quickly. Two-year-olds do that and it will be interesting to see what each of that pair have taken from that race.
Both are stars of the future.

Gasoline does a few things wrong, but is learning and Xiong Feng is more mentally mature as his three-from-three record shows. His wide draw this time could be an issue, although he does not lack tactical speed. The tote breaker for multiples is Midnight Gossip (No13).

Tavy (No7, R7) doesn't win out of turn, but she has come solid and lacks nothing in terms of talent. She has drawn a little awkwardly, but has a very sound finishing burst and makes appeal in this race. Plenty of chances for the minors and Perfect Fit (No8) is one of them. She is holding her form exceptionally well.

Southerner Soubrettes (No2) doesn't have form at 1400m, having an unassociated vet problem the only time she attempted it two years ago as a 3-year-old. Although she is not a strong mare, she is very fit and should not be ruled out of contention.

Volkstok'n'barrell (No1, R8) and Stolen Dance (No6) in the Bonecrusher - what a match up as a prelude to the Auckland Cup.

If ever a horse deserved a group one victory it's Stolen Dance, who has tried her heart out to get there. But if you saw the way Volkstok'n'barrell finished off to win at Otaki last time, you've just got to say he's back to his brilliant best. The way he stuck his neck out to say "I'm winning this" is the way of near freaks.

Stolen Dance won't step away from the fight, which is what we love about her, but Volkstok'n'barrell can be a hulk. Whoever wins, give them a cheer - they'll deserve it.

Marciano (No3, R10) can provide Dawn and Peter Williams the perfect finale to the carnival after the last start win. The danger is Chenille (No2 and watch for a much better run from Southern Dancer (No8). Things haven't gone his way a few times, but he is a stayer in the making and this race could be right for him.