Ellerslie have got an unexpected Grand Final to end their summer racing season.
And it has the potential to tip the Horse of the Year title, which looked Melody Belle's for certain, on its head.
The outstanding mare will clash with New Zealand's other glamour girl Danzdanzdance in the $200,000 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes at Ellerslie in Saturday, adding cream to the Cup day cake.
Melody Belle was already a somewhat surprising entry for the 2000m weight-for-age after her connections decided to turn down a likely wildcard entry to next week's A$5 million All Stars Mile in Melbourne.
That added serious equine firepower to the last major Auckland raceday of the summer but Danzdanzdance's shock nomination yesterday sets up a clash of the thoroughbred amazons.
Between them the pair have won six group ones this season, with the 4-2 score card giving Melody Belle a seemingly unbeatable lead in the Horse of the Year title.
But Danzdanzdance turning up in the Bonecrusher provides her with two chances to add to her title claims — if the grey flash was able to win she not only embellishes her record but could also deny Melody Belle a win she would have been favoured to get.
That would still leave a 4-3 advantage to Melody Belle at the elite level but with Danzdanzdance heading to Sydney after Saturday's race, even a second to Winx there plus beating Melody Belle in their only head-to-head clash could at least put some spark back in the title chase.
Co-trainer Chris Gibbs says the surprise entry for the Bonecrusher is simply because Danzdanzdance is doing too well and he and training partner Michelle Bradley don't want to be taking on Winx two weeks later with their mare too fresh.
"She has been doing so well she needed a race," says Gibbs.
"The Bonecrusher was always an option in the back of our minds but after we watched her gallop at Ellerslie on Saturday it was obvious how well she is. She broke 46 for her last 800m and 35 for the 600m and she was fizzed up in the parade ring before.
"So is doing really, really well and we would hate to take her to Sydney and have her too fresh for the Ranvet [March 23].
"But in saying that we respect this race and the quality of horses she will be taking on so she wouldn't be going to Ellerslie unless we believed she could win."
Last Saturday's Derby-winning jockey Craig Grylls will ride Danzdanzdance for the first time and she gives him another shot at adding to the biggest week of his career as he is also on Auckland Cup favourite Charles Road.
That means Danzdanzdance will be pitted against super jock Opie Bosson (Melody Belle), who rode her in both her group one wins this season and will be back on her for the Ranvet in Sydney.
With Melody Belle unknown at 2000m, TAB bookies will have an interesting time lining the pair up and while both have good wet track form, any rain — and there is some forecast for later in the week — would be seen by punters to favour Danzdanzdance more, especially at the extra distance.
Melody Belle's managing owner John Galvin welcomed what shapes as the clash of the season.
"Let the best meet the best I say," said Galvin.
Fields for Cup day come out at 10am tomorrow.
Auckland Cup day
• What: Ellerslie's last major meeting of the summer season.
• When: Saturday.
• Highlights: $500,000 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup; $200,000 Bonecrusher NZ Stakes; $200,000 Sistema Stakes.
• Bonus: The first ever clash of glamour racemares Melody Belle and Danzdanzdance in the Bonecrusher.