The favourites have been handed no favours for the $250,000 Woodlands Derby, the new signature race of Cup week at Alexandra Park.

While it is still Cup week in Auckland, the Trotting Cup has moved to December 31, where it seems to sit better in the overall harness racing calendar.

That promotes the Derby to the highlight of the harness racing week, a fair trade off considering the depth and quality of the classic in the last decade.

But while there is plenty of both in Friday night's version, it is shaping as a trick for punters with favourites Ultimate Machete and More The Better drawn poorly.


Had this Derby been in December when Ultimate Machete swept the 3-year-old features at Alex Park he would have been odds-on, even from the outside of the front line.

But he has been defeated twice at Menangle in recent weeks and his rivals will at least now sniff some vulnerability so it will be interesting to see how the bookies price him, hopefully sooner rather than later as the Australian TAB now regularly beats its New Zealand counterparts in putting out feature-race New Zealand harness markets.

His stablemate, More The Better, one of five in the race for the All Stars, looked back to something like his best with a booming second against the good older pacers last Friday but also faces a disadvantageous barrier at three on the second line, while the greatly-improved Motu Meteor will start from six.

The Derby competes with the City Of Auckland Free-For-All and the Young Guns Final for race of the night though.

The free-for-all brings together Inter Dominion champ Smolda, former Auckland Cup and Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me and Waikiki Beach for his long-awaited Alexandra Park debut all against The Orange Agent and Christen Me.

And the Young Guns looks one of the more open Alexandra Park juvenile group ones in years, with Alta Maestro (Robert Dunn) and Mach Shard (Barry Purdon) having thrown down the challenge to the usual All Stars domination of the race.

One winner from last Friday night who won't be returning for this Friday's Greenlane Cup is Speeding Spur, with the outstanding trotter in Melbourne for the A$100,000 Grand Prix at Melton on Saturday night.

Woodlands Derby

$250,000, 2700m, 9.10pm Friday
1: Raukapuka Ruler
2: Star Align
3: Pacing Major
4: Rhythm N Blues
5: Jacks Legend
6: Motu Meteor
7: Northview Hustler
8: Ultimate Machete
9: Alta Intrigue (one second line)
10: Mongolian Hero
11: More The Better
12: Tiger Thompso