Don't let Tickle Me Pink's huge handicap put you off backing the star trotting mare at Cambridge tonight.
Because although winners rarely come off 50m behind at Cambridge, champion driver Tony Herlihy says the Jewels winner is good enough to be an exception to that rule.
Herlihy and his fellow trainers are thrilled just to have a $30,000 race for trotting mares only, a group largely overlooked in programming and it has drawn a good field, too, with all four backmarkers open class mares who wouldn't be out of place in a group one trotting race.
Herlihy says the fact Tickle Me Pink, stablemate Kenny's Dream, Sunny Glenis and Pretty Majestic are all back on the 50m mark together changes the dynamic of the race.
"If she was off 50m by herself and had to chase them all that would be tough," he admits.
"But the other best horses in the race are back there with her and they will probably all work into the race together.
"It still won't be an easy race to win because mares like Pretty Majestic and Kenny's Dream are race fit whereas Tickle has had a little break since she last raced. But she did win well at the workouts last Saturday."
That trial didn't prove much as it was a discombobulated affair but when it comes to the clash Tickle Me Pink has little to prove. She won the Jewels last season, showed great speed in a free-for-all against Oscar Bonavena and Enhance Your Calm on Inter final night and her New Year's Eve win suggested she is a serious open class horse in the making.
She usually has perfect manners so might be too fast for the other open class girls in tonight's 2700m feature. Herlihy's team should have good night, with our most successful driver having up to five winning chances from his stable and rating Mailman (R9) and Underthesouthernsun (R10) as his next best two hopes. Tonight's meeting is one of the surprise gems of the Waikato harness racing season as it also hosts the $20,000 Dinny Johnston Guineas, moved from last month.
It slots in nicely as a lead-up to the Northern Derby at Alexandra Park in two weeks and has drawn a promising bunch but the best version of Bad To The Bone would still be the one to beat. He has been competitive at the highest three-year-old level all season, with perhaps his last start eighth in the Victoria Derby his only disappointing performance.
He drops a long way in grade tonight but wouldn't want to be too far back starting the last lap as plenty of his rivals could scoot home in 55 seconds if left alone.
Although Cambridge will the focus of local harness racing attention tonight, the spotlight will shift to Menangle tomorrow night where as host of Kiwis chase higher honours this week or next. Auckland Cup winner Self Assured continues to drift after drawing poorly in the A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire, while his stablemate Princess Tiffany also faces a wide draw in the final qualifying race for next week's Ladyship Mile.
She meets fellow Kiwi mares Bettors Heart, Havtime and Step Up tomorrow night. Stylish Memphis and Dr Susan contest heats of the NSW Oaks.
Best bet: To Sir With Love (R4, No.11): Huge recovery from early break to win last time only to be relegated. Should win again, hopefully without the relegation part this time.
Class drop: Bad To The Bone (R6, No8): Raced in Vic Derby last start, second in Sales Series three starts ago. Draw the only concern.
Speedster: Underthesouthernsun (R10, No7): Bolted in last time he came here. Has speed to overcome draw.