New Zealand's champion 3-year-old stayer Rocket Spade is off to Hong Kong and may not race here again.
But co-trainer Andrew Scott says while no trainers like to lose their stable star, he and partner Lance O'Sullivan fully expected the move and factored it into their business model.
The Vodafone Derby winner in March after taking out both the Auckland and Avondale Guineas, Rocket Spade is in the running for 3-year-old of the year at thoroughbred racing's annual awards next month, and in any normal season would be a leading contender for Horse of the Year.
While Rocket Spade would be competitive in weight-for-age this season, which started yesterday as thoroughbred horses all officially change age on August 1, he will instead head to Hong Kong to join Caspar Fownes to be aimed at their prestigious derby, which is for 4-year-olds.
"We aren't surprised by that and feel lucky to have had him," says Scott. "His owner, Mr Chuang of Hermitage Thoroughbreds, would love to have a derby contender up there and maybe Rocket Spade can be that horse.
"So we know when we are lucky enough to get his horses to train, if they turn out as good as a horse like Rocket Spade, they will probably head that way."
While one Hermitage-owned star will be leaving the stable, another is excelling as he prepares for the new season.
"Dragon Leap worked really well here on Saturday and he will trial at Ellerslie on Tuesday. He has come back really well after nothing has gone right for him for the last year and we will give him two trials into the Foxbridge Plate at Te Rapa on August 28, and then all going well, he will head to the Tarzino at Hastings."
Dragon Leap has raced only once in the past 17 months, when he finished midfield behind Dreamforce and Kolding in the Tramway at Randwick last September but looked a potential superstar at 3.
So much so, he sits on the fourth line of betting at $7 for the Tarzino on September 11 behind Avantage, Catalyst and Aegon, and if that quartet all turn up for the first Group 1 of the season, it will be a huge boost to spring racing.
One horse almost certain to be there is Saturday's brave comeback winner at Otaki in Tavi Mac, who outclassed Deerfield late in his $32,500 pipe opener for his new campaign.
He made the most of young apprentice Bailey Rogerson's 4kg claim and she handled him exactly how trainer Allan Sharrock wanted, trailing Deerfield and pulling off his back to down him without too much persuasion.
That will give Tavi Mac a likely fitness edge over Avantage when they meet in the Foxbridge, a race they quinellaed last season.
Avantage and her glamour girl stablemates such as Probabeel and Entriviere are likely to join Dragon Leap at those Ellerslie trials on Tuesday to add some early season class to the first trials meeting as Auckland enters the new era of Auckland Thoroughbred Racing Incorporated.