While one major piece of the New Zealand Cup puzzle is in place, a huge question mark hangs over another.
That is whether Auckland Cup winner and one of the favourites for harness racing's Horse of the Year, Amazing Dream, returns home for the race.
And punters could have to wait another month to find out, a revelation that could enormously impact the market for the great race.
The Cup is two months today and Addington bosses have confirmed the stake at $600,000 — up more than 10 per cent on last year. It is the richest harness race in New Zealand and the second richest in Australasia.
Some of the Cup contenders have already been back to the races and will clash again at Addington tomorrow night while Cambridge contender Kango races off a 20m handicap on his home track tonight.
The big-name northern contenders, headlined by Copy That, have been handed a pre-Cup campaign pathway to prepare at home with the ATC moving the Spring Cup back two weeks to October 8 and the Holmes DG to October 22, making them key lead-up races to the New Zealand Cup.
That could see them host most of the northern stars with the exception of South Coast Arden, who will head from Pukekohe to Canterbury in time for the Canterbury Classic on October 1.
That will also act as the comeback race for defending NZ Cup champion Self Assured while the four Southland contenders for the race — Pembrook Playboy, U May Cullect, Vintage Cheddar and Robyn's Playboy — will have a special elite horses trial at Wyndham today.
Although the numbers for the 3200m Group 1 are looking good, Amazing Dream remains the question mark as she is now based in Victoria with Nathan Purdon, son of former trainer Mark.
Amazing Dream had a three-week break after her successful Queensland campaign during which she won the Rising Sun and Blacks A Fake to add to her Auckland Cup last New Year's Eve.
Purdon says he will not make a decision on a New Zealand Cup bid until Amazing Dream competes in the Victoria Cup at Melton on October 9.
"The owners are based in the United States and they have pretty much told me it is my decision whether she goes home for the Cup or not," he said.
"Of course I'd love to have her over there and win the Cup but there are several factors that will impact that. One is obviously her form here and how she goes in the Victoria Cup while I will also be keeping a close eye on Self Assured's form over home and how he comes up. And also Copy That."
If Amazing Dream doesn't return to New Zealand for the Cup she is almost certain to be in the US by Christmas, with Purdon saying she is booked on a flight mid-December that will likely negate her starting in the Inter Dominions in New South Wales.
Purdon is also the new trainer of former Pukekohe pacer American Dealer and says the Queensland Derby winner is working well as he is aimed at the Victoria Derby on October9.