Kiwi superstar jockey James McDonald is the hot favourite to win the prized ride on excitement machine Te Akau Shark for the biggest race of his career.
The ride on the powerful chestnut in the A$1 million ($1.06m) Epsom Handicap at Randwick on October 5 is going to be up for grabs as regular rider Opie Bosson has commitments in New Zealand and almost certainly couldn't make the Epsom weight even if he didn't have.
While weights for the Epsom aren't released until September 17 unless Te Akau Shark wins his Australian debut in the Tramway before then he is likely to get 54 or 54.5kgs in the million-dollar mile.
Bosson can ride that weight in the depths of summer when he strips right down for the good fillies in the Karaka Million or Classic but he would be unlikely to be that weight by October, especially as he has only just started back riding.
So Te Akau boss David Ellis is happy to keep Bosson home to ride Melody Belle in the Hawke's Bay Triple Crown, which culminates in the Livamol on October 5, the same day as the Epsom.
"Opie will be back on her (Melody Belle) for the whole triple crown down there," Ellis told the Herald.
"So the Te Akau Shark ride is going to an Australian-based rider and the only one we have spoken to about it is James.
"He used to work for us, we all know how good he is and he is almost certain to ride the horse." McDonald has followed Te Akau Shark closely and liked what he saw when the big boy stormed home for second to Endless Drama at Te Rapa on Saturday, very much against the pattern of the day.
"I thought he went great and he is very exciting," said McDonald.
"So while nothing is confirmed yet I'm very keen to get on him and have spoken to David about that."
McDonald is walking 57kgs at the moment and admits the weight is only coming off slower than last year he says he will be at 55kgs shortly and will definitely make Te Akau Shark's expected weight should he make it to the Epsom.
While New Zealand-trained horses being favourites for a glamour mile like the Epsom are increasingly rare, Te Akau Shark's chances are aided by the fact potentially Australia's best horse Mystic Journey is staying in Victoria to be aimed at the Cox Plate while last season's other champion 3-year-old The Autumn Sun was disappointingly retired to stud.
And WA superstar Arcadia Queen, now with Chris Waller, is being aimed at the Everest and then the Golden Eagle, so the often feared elite 4-year-olds may not be heading down the Epsom path.
Te Akau Shark will have plenty of stablemates for company in Australia, with Avantage, Probabeel and In A Twinkling all likely to head to Sydney, or Melbourne should the rains hit New South Wales.
Melody Belle is expected to head to the Cox Plate after the HB triple crown while trainer Jamie Richards will join up with new import Caliburn, recently purchased from Europe.
With another Australian galloper already named Caliburn, the imported version's new racing name will be Te Akau Caliburn.
Meanwhile, Richards will take promising maiden mares Luminous and Shezathinka to the first two maiden races at Taupo today where their class might be enough to get them home, particularly Shezathinka, even racing well short of their best.
Riding the Shark
• James McDonald is the hot favourite to secure the ride on Te Akau Shark in Sydney.
• The Waikato galloper is the $6 favourite with the Australian TAB to win the A$1 million Epsom on October 5.
• Regular rider Opie Bosson would struggle to make the Epsom weight and will instead ride Melody Belle at Hastings that day.