It might seem strange two of Auckland's greatest staying races are so dependent on what happens at the start, three or even four minutes before the finish.

But the start might be the winning and losing of the two biggest group ones at Alexandra Park tonight.

Both the $150,000 Rowe Cup and $100,000 Messenger have enough depth to make them even but their natural lead-up races last Friday — the Anzac Cup and Taylor Mile — suggested trainer Greg Hope has the horse to beat in both.

A G's White Socks led, trailed and bolted away with the Taylor Mile and has the draw to potentially do something similar in the Messenger, while Enghien has been so good in his last two starts, including the Anzac Cup when he was pushed off the track down the back straight, he is clearly the trotter to beat in the Rowe Cup.

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But both face very obvious challenges in the early stages of their races.

A G's White Socks might, and it is only a might, have the gate speed to hold Eamon Maguire and Star Galleria at the start of the 2700m mobile Messenger and if he does Hope will be reluctant to see driver Ricky May trail like he did last week.

"I think if we hand the lead to Eamon Maguire then he will hand to his stablemate (More The Better) and we are three deep on the markers and in trouble," says Hope. "Ricky and I have discussed it and we are of the mind that if he leads we will want to stay there and take our chances."

A G's White Socks's two recent group one wins, the other being the Easter Cup three starts ago, have been when he trailed and the possibility of him wanting to lead throughout if he can hold fast beginner Eamon Maguire at the start, sets the tone for a competitive race.

While most major Alexandra Park staying races are won by the horses saving ground on the markers, any early battle could play into the hooves of Star Galleria, who emerges as the value in the race.

But Eamon Maguire, still a very new recruit to the All Stars, was the run of the race when second in the Taylor Mile and if he crosses straight to the front he has all the options.

The start of the Rowe Cup may not be as much about options as manners, with Enghien still very much a work in progress and one who has had very few standing starts on a full front line in his career.

That could mean some early nerves for both he and punters tonight but Hope is confident he will handle the stand.

"He is actually a very sensible horse and can begin quickly," says Hope.

"When he did gallop from a stand three start ago it wasn't his fault, he got a shock when horses rushed up behind him because he had blinkers on.

"But I am confident he will get it right and I am sure he is better than when he ran second in the Anzac Cup last Friday."

That, coupled with the mixed form of many of his rivals, makes Enghien the horse to beat but you can make each way cases for Speeding Spur (draw and career record), Lemond (blazing Anzac Cup win) and Harriet Of Mot (occasional bursts of brilliance).

The two other group ones tonight are vastly different. It is silly to bet against Winterfell in the Trotting Derby while the Sires' Stakes Championship has been thrown wide open by the unfortunate scratching of Princess Tiffany.

Friday fancies

• Best bet:

Star Of Montana (R10, No.6): Massive winning in similar race two starts ago and got too far back in sprint home last start. Best drawn of the favourites.

• Double up: A G's White Socks (R7, No.2): Led, trailed and won Taylor Mile last Friday and could be exact same run again. If he does will be very hard to beat.

• Down grade: Bonnie Joan (R6, No.8): Took on the big boys in the Taylor Mile last Friday and was good enough to suggest she can win this against far easier opposition.