Giant galloper Julius is set to miss the first group one challenge of the New Zealand racing season even as he looked set to sneak into the Tarzino Trophy at Hastings on Saturday week.
The mammoth with a motor lies 20th in order for the $200,000 race but with several trainers of rivals ranked above him unsure of starting or having their plans affected by wet tracks Julius has a great chance of making the elite field.
But trainer John Bell says that probably won't matter for the $4.50 second favourite in the TAB market.
"We are 90 per cent certain we are not to go to the Tarzino, even if he did make the field," Bell told the Herald.
"He had a hard race the other day (Te Rapa, Saturday), as did a lot of other horses.
"And we have other aims later in the season. These early season races were always a bonus for us. The Railway is one of his big aims.
"So I'd prefer to miss the Tarzino and set him for the big sprint on the last day of the Hawkes Bay carnival."? That is a group three 1400m worth $70,000 and appeals because of the space between races for the lightly-raced Julius.
If and when Bell confirms Julius is a no-show for the first group one of the season it will cause a dramatic reshape of the market as he was the favourite before Saturday's brave defeat by Melody Belle in the Foxbridge Plate.
The victor has had two easy days at Te Akau after giving Jamie Richards his first solo training success in a group two race and while she is still being aimed at Hastings, Richards is unsure who else from Te Akau will join her.
Like many of his rival trainers he expects to know more after two open class trials before the race meeting at Taupo tomorrow.
With trials cancelled and others being run on ridiculously wet tracks many trainers are struggling to get good gallops into their stars before the Tarzino without the risk of flattening them.
Central Districts trainer Mark Oulaghan was the latest victim of that when the Foxton trials scheduled for today were delayed until next week, which has increased the chances his stable star Shadows Cast will miss the Tarzino.
With Taupo likely to provide better footing tomorrow's trials could be a crucial guide to the Tarzino and the features that lie beyond.
Richards will take Age Of Fire and Our Abbadean to Taupo, with their performances a key pointer to whether they head to Hastings.
Johno Benner and Hollie Wynyard will make the trip north from Otaki with both Scott Base and Wynspelle, both wanting to start in the Tarzino.
"It is a long way to go for two trials but we simply have to to get them ready for next week," said Benner.
"But it is starting to look like they will both get a start at Hastings and after the hard race a few had at Te Rapa last Saturday I'm happy we missed that."
Former ATC Derby winner Jon Snow will also trial tomorrow as the Tarzino comes more sharply into his focus while Gary Hennessy is thrilled with Ocean Emperor after his Te Teko trial last week and will use tomorrow to keep him for fit for Hastings.
"He is definite for Hastings and then we are heading to Melbourne with the Cox Plate the aim," said Hennessy.
Melbourne is also the plan for Bonneval, who will trial tomorrow but won't race in the Tarzino, heading straight to Australia. Sensible Princess is the other Tarzino entrant in tomorrow's trials.
Michael Pitman has confirmed both Savvy Coup and Son Of Maher are crossing Cook Strait to head to Hastings next week while Peter Lock says Hiflyer is a definite Tarzino starter.
That puts a mare like Contessa Vanessa, ranked 19th, on the cusp of getting a start but trainer Graeme Rogerson says he will wait until she gallops later in the week before confirming her Tarzino bid after she copped a knock in the Foxbridge on Saturday.
What: $200,000 Tarzino Trophy, first group one race of the NZ season.
Where: Hastings Racecourse.
When: Saturday, September 1.
Who: Many of New Zealand's elite thoroughbreds but likely to be missing one-time favourite Julius.