It is not often a four-year-old trotters race creates more anticipation than the best pacers.
Then again, we have never seen a four-year-old trotting race like the $85,000 PGG Sales Series Trot at Alexandra Park on Friday night.
Admittedly there isn't a lot of competition because apart from the Jewels every winter we have almost no trotting races confined to four-year-olds, and the only reason there is one on Friday is because Covid-19 caused the cancellation of this race in the autumn, when it would have been for three-year-olds.
The extra six months or so has seen the crop strengthen and mature and that means while only five horses contest Friday's Alexandra Park feature, they are all either open class proven or heading that way.
The southerners Cracker Hill, Ultimate Stride and Midnight Dash have already either won or been placed at that level and they aren't the favourites for Friday, after Bolt For Brilliance outpointed Temporale off level marks two weeks ago.
Bolt For Brilliance already has an elite level motor which is why he has opened as the $2.30 favourite ahead of Cracker Hill and Ultimate Stride. Bolt For Brilliance has the home track advantage which could be crucial on Friday as neither Cracker Hill nor Ultimate Stride have raced right-handed, which trainer Brad Williamson admits could be an issue.
"I don't think he [Cracker Hill] is quite as good right-handed," admits Williamson, who is also the caretaker trainer on this trip for Ultimate Stride, trained by his father Phil.
That is why Williamson is hoping Cracker Hill can use his gate speed to cross to the marker pegs, which usually aids southern horses having their first start at Alexandra Park.
"I'd love to lead on him and make the others catch me," says Williamson. "But even I am excited about the race itself. These are some pretty special horses for young trotters and it is exciting for anybody who loves a trotter."
So much so the trot will create just as much interest if not more than the next step to the New Zealand Cup, the Holmes D G Handicap a race later which will feature one-time Cup favourite Copy That.
He faces a tricky draw on the inside of the 30m handicap. He has opened the $1.65 favourite but may have to come from behind last start conqueror Mach Shard to beat him.
The Friday night open class feature will be followed by another rarity at Methven on Sunday when two other New Zealand Cup favourites, Self Assured and Spankem, contest the grass track Methven Cup.
Flashing Red won the Methven Cup on his way to winning the NZ Cup in 2006 while Smolda and Cruz Bromac have won the Methven Cup in recent years.
But Self Assured and Spankem both turning up to contest Sunday's race off a 30m handicap was not originally in their plans and is a huge bonus for the Methven club.