Finally the Harness Jewels may be set for some serious Australian interest.
Former Kiwi trotter Custodian, now trained in Victoria, has been issued the first Australian invite to the $1,275,000 mega meeting at Cambridge on June 2, which means he will return to the venue where he won the two-year-old division two years ago.
Custodian, who stayed in Australia after winning the Breeders Crown that season, missed the back end of last season when his connections were keen to defend their title.
But they have jumped at the opportunity to come back for the four-year-old trot division and take on hot favourite Enghien.
And it looks likely they could have some company, with at least five high-profile Australian-trained horses in the running for invites.
Since Harness Racing New Zealand started inviting one Australian runner for each division a few years ago they have had plenty of disappointments, with withdrawals for a variety of reasons seeing most Jewels meetings run with only one or two Australians and some with none.
Getting Australian horses to the series is seen as pivotal in increasing awareness and popularity in Australia, leading to increased turnover.
Last season two Aussies made it to Ashburton and both ran second so no visitor has won a Jewels race yet.
Custodian will need to be good to change that if Enghien turns up in his best form.
But HRNZ are confident they have and will continue to secure some other big names. "We have had a lot of interest, more than any other year," says HRNZ's Darrin Williams.
"The Custodian team are thrilled to be coming back because Nathan Jack [trainer] loved it last time he brought a horse.
"And I think having it at Cambridge helps this year as it is easier to fly in to Auckland, stay a few days and fly out again.
"But we have some really high profile horses we are speaking to the connections of."
The biggest of those is Miracle Mile runner-up Jilliby Kung Fu, who is a real chance to take on Star Galleria in the four-year-old Emerald.
Last season's champion Australian two-year-old trotter Wobelee is also rated a serious hope as is Ladyship Mile winner Carla's Pixel. And two of Australia's best three-year-old pacing fillies Shez All Rock and Soho Burning Love are believed to be competing for that invite, with the New Zealand Oaks next month possibly the deciding race.
The New Zealand TAB has yet to open markets on the Jewels even though the main Australian TAB has had them open for the last two weeks.
Meanwhile, Cambridge race on their newly resurfaced track tonight just a week after 320 tonnes of new surface was put on it in preparation for the Jewels.
They host a rare Wednesday meeting the next two weeks with tonight's feature actually being a non-tote, with some of the north's best juvenile pacers in a five-horse Sires' Stakes heat.