The Tangerine Team aren't hitting the panic button just yet with deposed 2000 Guineas favourite Sword Of Osman.

But they will be taking that button to Hastings with them in three weeks' time because a repeat performance in the Hawke's Bay Guineas will spell trouble for the group one winner.

As Melt was dealing to the boys in the $70,000 Cambridge Stud Breeders Stakes at Ruakaka on Saturday her main market rival Sword Of Osman was eight lengths away in sixth, hardly the ideal way to start his season.

He wasn't aided by playing the fool in the starting gates and, true to the stable's pre-race predictions, rider Shafiq Rusof took a sit on Sword Of Osman but even if the gelding didn't appreciate those educational tactics he was still disappointing.


That saw him drift from outright $6 favouritism to $12 for the 2000 Guineas at Riccarton on November 10, indicating not only how sub-par he was but the eyecatching runs of placegetters Madison County and Reevederci. Melt was all class, with punters having a few nervous moments when she was forced to three back along the inner across the top but when the three-year-olds turned for home the rail opened up and jockey Sam Spratt only had to aim and pull the trigger.

That leaves her trainer Nigel Tiley with an array of options as he eyes up Riccarton, with the 1000 Guineas her main aim even though Melt is still in the entries for the 2000 Guineas a week earlier.

But trainer Jamie Richards, who watched Sword Of Osman from his hospital bed after being laid up late last week, isn't giving up on the Guineas dream yet. "He was only fair, for sure," admitted Richards.

"But I think he might be better left-handed, even though he won a group one right-handed last season.

"So we will take him to Hawke's Bay for the Guineas there (October 6) and maybe try him in front again if the draws work out that way.

"We have some work to do and he can be quite an ignorant horse, as people saw in the barriers, but I think that next start will give us a better indication of where we stand."

That 2000 Guineas market is now headed by Madison County, who was huge making up lengths on Melt in the home straight, coming wide on a day where the outside wasn't the place to be. He also heads to Hastings next start. He is now the $6 Guineas favourite ahead of Reevederci, who was brave in third and is the $10 second favourite for the classic, although trainer Lance Noble isn't getting carried away just yet.

"He was good and showed us he can run with these horses but Madison County came from a fair way behind us to beat us easily," said Noble. "But our horse is very much on the way up and if he comes through this week we will head to Hastings for the Guineas there also. That three-week gap suits." The three-year-old male crop presents a very clouded picture, with even Lincoln Falls leapfrogging into joint third favouritism for Riccarton on the back of an admittedly stunning maiden win on debut at Woodville on Thursday.

"I think it is one of those crops with emerging horses really starting to come through and maybe a few more yet to put their hands up," says Noble.

"You have a meeting like Taupo this Friday which, if they get a good track, can throw up a couple of smart horses but at least this race proved we are in the Guineas frame."

If the colts continue to chop and change you could understand Tiley (Melt) or Richards with Avantage, who returns in the Gold Trail this Saturday, perhaps even considering a crack at the boys in the 2000 Guineas.

But that is not as attractive for a superstar filly as it used to be with the 2000 Guineas now on the first day of the Cup carnival and therefore before the 1000 Guineas. That means an off day against the boys could derail a filly for the supposedly easier target a week later whereas in the past the 2000 Guineas could be a nice bonus for a 1000 Guineas winner.

Market moves

2000 Guineas, Riccarton November 10

$6: Madison County

$10: Reevederci

$12: Lincoln Falls, Melt, Sword Of Osman

$14: Sir Nate

$16: Cavallo Veloce, Thomas Aquinas, Our Flying Ace

$18: Avantage, Bit Lippy, Cyber Attack.

$21 or better the rest.