One of Australia's great race days may have had its heart torn out but it could still be worth millions to Kiwi galloper Not An Option today.
Racing fans will be happy Stradbroke Day is going ahead at Eagle Farm; the iconic meeting and the entire Queensland winter carnival initially due for the chop because of Covid-19 but then earning a reprieve.
It won't be anything like a normal "Straddy Day", with no crowds and the namesake race dropping from A$1.5 million to A$350,000 but Group 1 racing is still significant — especially for a horse like Not An Option.
He contests today's juvenile feature — the A$350,000 JJ Atkins — but being a Group 1 it could be worth potentially millions to his proposed future stud career.
That is what Not An Option was purchased for last summer, when after two wins huge money changed hands for him to join a syndicate led by Cambridge Stud.
Not much has gone right since but an Australian Group 1 juvenile win would quickly change all that, with few juveniles who win at that level standing at stud here.
Usual trainer Tony Pike left Not An Option in Sydney to be caretaker trained by Richard and Michael Freedman two months ago and Pike says the reports from that stable are good.
"He has travelled well and everybody is happy with his work so I think he will go well," he told the Weekend Herald yesterday.
"These races aren't easy to win but for the first time in a long time he has a good draw at barrier three and that should see him settle handier."
Not An Option was scratched from his latest Sydney engagement because of the heavy track but Eagle Farm was rated a good surface last night so that ticks one box, and while Pike admits missing a lead-up race is hardly ideal it might not matter over today's 1400m.
"He is probably actually looking for 1600m so being fresh going into a 1400m is okay."
Pike says it has been hard watching the Queensland carnival that has treated him so well in the last five years (Provocative, Sacred Elixir, Bostonian) decimated by the restrictions and financial damage of Covid-19.
"It has been a great carnival for us so to be at home watching it has been hard.
"But we had 40 horses from our stable through the gates for jump outs today [Friday] and have nine trialing at Te Rapa next week and 21 two weeks later.
"So things are getting busier here and at this stage we should have horses at Pukekohe for the first meeting back [June 20]."
● After much talk about change the iconic Victorian spring carnival's elite races will stay put.
There had been high-level proposals to change the Caulfield Cup to the end of November instead of its usual October spot, mainly over concerns about clashing with the delayed AFL finals season.
But Racing Victoria voted against the idea yesterday so the carnival's big three of the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup will retain their historic order.