Unbeaten pacer Areeba is cutting it fine, but is expected to win his only shot at qualifying for the $150,000 NRM Sires' Stakes Three-Year-Old final on November 14 when he races at Addington tonight.
The draw has been kind to the Frank Cooney-trained and driven Areeba, which can take several options from the three alley in the final qualifying heat of the series.
Areeba led over the last 1600m in his debut at Cambridge on October 12, winning easily from Rare Gem, then justified his big reputation by finishing best from the trail to beat Taihape Tickler at Auckland two weeks ago.
Cooney believes the Soky's Atom gelding has the potential to develop into a Derby horse. Areeba is facing his toughest test to date, but has what it takes to handle the situation.
He was bred in Canterbury but sold for $35,500 at the New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale to Aucklander Lew Driver. Cooney was the underbidder, and later came to an agreement with Driver to race the horse in partnership.
The same day Driver bought Areeba, he also paid $9000 for Camtastic colt Ricardus, also unbeaten in two starts.
Driver races Ricardus with West Melton horseman Malcolm Shinn from the stable of Shinn's brother Ian.
While Areeba was yet to race at two-years-old due to a leg injury, Ricardus won the two-horse Yearling Sales Consolation race at Addington in May, then repeated in the $19,000 Sires' Stakes Two-Year-Old Silver at Timaru two weeks later.
Ricardus has been trialing soundly for tomorrow's resumption, and like Areeba, needs a one-two finish to secure selection in the final on Tuesday week.
The grey and blue colours of Clevedon trainer Barry Purdon should be prominent again in tonight's heat, worn by form runners, I'vecomealongway, and Flying Consent.
I'vecomealongway, a half-brother by Beach Towel to Purdon's former top pacer Surprise Package, has already qualified for the NRM final by finishing second to Young Rufus in the Auckland heat on September 29.
Flying Consent finished a luckless fourth to Areeba in a C1 race at Auckland on October 20, and is another desperate for a one or two finish here.
Meanwhile, top mares Chloe Hanover and Under Cover Lover get a suitable final New Zealand Cup lead-up (off 35-metres), in the C5 and faster Merivale Mall Handicap Pace over 2600m.