Chase Auckland may be running out of ways to get beaten in tonight's $250,000 Woodlands Northern Derby at Alexandra Park.
The son of Auckland Reactor has looked every inch his father's son in his debut season, winning both the Sires' Stakes and Sales Series Pace before tasting defeat for the first time in the Derby prelude last Friday.
That was when he was forced to sit parked outside stablemate Sicario and only just failed to grab him in his first start for two months, suggesting he will clearly strip fitter tonight.
Even after that defeat the TAB opened Chase Auckland a $1.35 favourite and those taking the short will do so without too many obvious stumbling blocks.
Already this crop has been shorn on several key rivals through injury, illness or sales overseas.
In the last two weeks first Pat's Delight and then Sicario, with huge Alexandra Park wins, have emerged as genuine Derby threats to Chase Auckland, at least until Monday's barrier draw.
Sicario, who may well be as talented as his stablemate on last Friday's run, drew the second line and while he is the only horse there he still looks set to settle closer to last than first.
And Pat's Delight fared even worse, drawing the outside of the front line while Chase Auckland drew barrier six.
Pat's Delight's trainer Cran Dalgety was pragmatic about the draw.
"If we were going into the race as the big dog maybe we could roll the dice and go forward from barrier eight," said Dalgety.
"But if we go blasting out and try and lead from there, even if we make the front, we will set the race up for something else."
So with his two best credentialed rivals likely settling behind him, Chase Auckland's only major worries should be those in front of him.
There are some handy, future open class rivals between him and the lead but only Sheriff would seem any hope of holding him out and even then any desire to do so would be sorely tested if Chase Auckland got serious inside the first lap.
More and more, it looks like a Derby he should eventually lead and win.
The classic is just one of a stretch of six major races in a row, starting with a small but very even Northern Mares Classic, which could be decided by how hard Delishka has to work.
The open trot looks a lottery but CK Spur's manners are so good his improvement curve might continue, especially with the backmarkers not suited by the big field. The southern fillies dominate the Delightful Lady, with Bubbled Up probably the best value since there doesn't seem to be much between her, Princess Tiffany and Kendra.
Jesse Duke looks the best of the freshman boys in the Young Guns Final but is still very much learning so maybe not a true multi bet anchor.
And the return clash of Jack's Legend and Star Galleria in the City Of Auckland Free-For-All should be a beauty, with the former holding a crucial draw advantage tonight.
Star Galleria may be flat out faster than Jack's Legend but if he has to move mid-race to sit parked while Jack's Legend leads then it is advantage Jack's Legend, and at $2.50 fixed he is a good bet.
Chase Auckland (R7, No.6): Hard to see how he doesn't lead and win in the Derby.
• Revenge: Jack's Legend (R9, No.1): Gets the perfect chance to turn the tables on Star Galleria.
• One better: Bubbled Up (R6, No.3): Very brave in second last week and early odds looked overs.