Kiwi mare Melody Belle will have to trump champion Aussie heroine Winx to win today's A$1 million Doncaster Handicap as racing's Championships kick off at Randwick in Sydney.
The Matamata mare has won at racing's highest level 10 times but faces one of her toughest tests carrying the 57kgs equal topweight in one of Australia's great mile races.
Australian racing has ploughed on impressively through the Covid-19 pandemic, with strict protocols enabling meetings to be run without crowds but still providing income for the industry and giving punters about the only live sport they can watch today.
Those who are watching will see something special if Melody Belle can win the Doncaster as few mares have even attempted the great race with 57kgs in the modern era.
Even Winx, rated by many as Australia's greatest ever mare, only carried 56.5kgs when she won the Doncaster in 2016, before she reached the peak of her powers which ruled her out of contesting handicap races.
Only two mares have successfully carried more than Melody Belle does today, Aussie star More Joyous with 57.5kgs in 2012 and New Zealand's Queen of the Turf, Sunline, who carried 58kgs in 2002, the second time she won the race.
While it is a daunting task, jockey Opie Bosson, who has been in Sydney for three weeks after just beating the travel restriction, says Melody Belle is at her peak.
"I rode her on Tuesday and she was really sharp and yesterday when Paul (Richards) took her for a walk she was kicking out and bucking, so she is feeling really well.
"It won't be easy with lightweights in the race but I think she will go close."
It is a strong without being scary Doncaster, and with Randwick rated soft for today Bosson is confident he gets nearly ideal conditions for the reigning New Zealand Horse of the Year.
"It might sound like she is drawn wide at 14 but she comes into 11 and in a 20 horse field I think that is almost ideal. I'm hoping we can settle midfield on the outer."
With the weight of history against her it is hard to tip Melody Belle as a good bet but she is rarely gone a bad race in the last 15 months and a hard run mile should suit her.
If she wins today she will take the step from being New Zealand's champion galloper to an Australasian champion.
She headlines a potentially lucrative day for the Kiwis lucky enough to make it to Sydney before the travel restriction, with Bosson the catch rider for two of them.
He partners Not An Option in the A$200,000 Kindergarten Stakes, where a wide draw won't help and is on Quick Thinker in the A$1 million ATC Derby where he meets Vodafone Derby winner Sherwood Forest.
The Cambridge-trained pair are both genuine stayers and a gutbusting 2400m in the wet around Randwick looks their best chance of beating a class act like Cox Plate runner-up Castelvecchio, but it is a deep Derby with Shadow Hero and VRC Derby winner Warning also engaged.
One of the best Kiwi winning hopes today is The Chosen One who looks almost ideally suited in the A$300,000 Chairman's Quality with James McDonald riding for trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman.
How the Kiwis line up for today's multi-million dollar Sydney meeting
R1, 2.10pm: A$200,000 Kindergarten Stakes, Not An Option, $6.50 (NZ TAB fixed odds)
R5, 4.35pm: A$300,000 Chairman's Quality, The Chosen One, $5.
R7, 5.55pm: A$ 1million ATC Derby, Sherwood Forest, $12 and Quick Thinker, $8.50.
R9, 7.15pm: A$1.5 million Doncaster, Melody Belle, $6.50.