An unusual eye problem has forced champion trainer Mark Purdon to give away a near-certain group one winning drive this week.
Purdon has returned home to Canterbury from Queensland where has has been looking after his small but select team who have dominated at the winter carnival.
Virtually unknown three-year-old Self Assured has emerged as a potential star by downing Harness Jewels-winning stablemate Jesse Duke a fortnight ago and the pair head the market for next week's Queensland Derby.
But before then the All Stars look set to win another group one for the season with Princess Tiffany to start red hot in this Saturday's A$100,000 Queensland Oaks.
Already a group one winner in New Zealand, Victoria and New South Wales, Princess Tiffany should add another elite level trophy this week after drawing barrier four in the 2138m mobile at Albion Park.
But Purdon won't be steering her because of an eye infection that kept him from driving in Brisbane last Saturday, when Princess Tiffany ground her way to a win in the South East Oaks.
"I got an infection in behind one of my eyes and it got quite painful," explains Purdon.
"But just as importantly I couldn't see out of it. I could see perfectly with the other eye but that isn't good enough when you are driving.
"So I sat out last Saturday and won't drive this week either. It is getting better so I think I am over the worst of it."
With Purdon sidelined Kylie Rasmussen, sister of Purdon's partner Natalie, drove Princess Tiffany last Saturday and will do so again in the Oaks.
With the horse who pushed her closest last Saturday, Miss Streisand, drawing the second line it is impossible to make a case for Princess Tiffany getting beaten even though she was hardly dazzling last Saturday.
"She was good without being great last weekend but it was her first run for a while and she did have to sit parked so I think she would improve for this week," explains Purdon.
If Princess Tiffany wins the Oaks convincingly on Saturday Purdon will consider starting her against the boys in the Derby the following week.
Self Assured, who is unbeaten in four starts, and Jesse Duke will warm up for that Queensland Derby in the A$31,600 South East Derby this Saturday, with Rasmussen to also drive Self Assured and Luke McCarthy to partner Jesse Duke. Co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen is unavailable as she is on holiday overseas.
While Self Assured has the speed and action of a good horse he won't be joining Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke should they head to the Breeders Crown in Victoria next month.
"He wasn't paid up for the series after he got injured when he was younger," explains Purdon.
"But I'd say Jesse Duke and Princess Tiffany are 80 per cent likely to go to the Breeders Crown."
The All Stars won't have any juveniles joining their three-year-olds in Victoria with many of the age group stars not even back in work yet after long freshman seasons.
The country's premier stable is set to win the premiership again even though they may not line up another horse in New Zealand until September.
They are 15 clear of rival trainer Robert Dunn (115-100 for the season) but Dunn's team is also entering a quiet phase.
And it is hard to see him closing the gap in just three weeks.
The All Stars' focus domestically is now on the yearlings getting used to stable life and the Cup horses as they start to warm up for a huge last two months of the year.
While Turn It Up will miss the New Zealand Cup, Inter Dominions and Auckland Cup the stable still has Thefixer and Spankem at the head of those markets and both are pleasing, Thefixer at the stables and Spankem at the early stages of a water walker preparation before returning home.
Group One giveaway
• Trainer Mark Purdon has been forced to gift away a near certain group one winning drive this week.
• His small team has been dominant at the Queensland winter carnival.
• Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke could spearhead a smaller than usual NZ team at the Breeders Crown.
• With a 15-win buffer the All Stars will win the national premiership again.