Trainer Shaune Ritchie is putting a positive spin on losing jockey Jason Waddell just the day before he was to ride Jennifer Eccles in today's $200,000 Tarzino Trophy at Hastings.
Waddell has been stood down from riding after failing to provide a urine sample for a regulation test at the Te Rapa races on Thursday.
Jockeys being unable to provide urine samples, particularly the heavier jockeys when wasting, is not uncommon because of extreme dehydration, and fellow rider Cameron Lammas also was unable to provide a urine sample on Thursday and has stood himself down from riding Pinmedown in the Tarzino.
Waddell nor Lammas won't be allowed to ride until providing a sample which tests negative and that left co-trainer Ritchie in a scramble to find a suitable rider for today's second favourite.
A jockey of Matt Cameron's class and experience, with 93 black-type wins and more than $25 million in career stakes, would usually not be available the day before the first Group 1 of the season. But his availability helped ease fears.
"Sure, it is not ideal to lose Jason but we are bloody lucky to get a top Group 1 rider like Matt," said Ritchie.
"Matt may not have ever sat on her [Jennifer Eccles] but I think with those really top jockeys, sometimes it doesn't matter. It is not like we are being forced to put on a rider we don't want. We have a top rider.
"I am not going to get upset or carry on about it. These things happen. After all, we are talking about horses following a white rail around. This isn't curing cancer. I just hope Jason is okay and comes out of this all right and now we look forward to the race."
Cameron may not have to think too much in the early stages of today's 1400m Group 1 and he looks certain to be following that white rail from barrier one for the majority of the race.
He will start earning his money when he has to make the choice of whether to stay in or pull on to the back of the right rival starting the last 400m.
With three or four horses who like to race on the speed in the Tarzino, the tempo should be good and gaps should appear as they turn for home. The question for Jennifer Eccles' punters will be whether she is fit enough and fast enough to take those gaps and how much of a start she has to give Avantage.
The latter deserves to be favourite under any scenario, especially after she shrugged off a sluggish few days of track work with an energetic piece of work on Thursday.
If she can settle in the first six and wind up from the top of the straight, it is hard to see her beaten, but if any of Bavella, Tavi Mac or potential leader The Mitigator bring their A-game and get too big a break on her, the Hastings straight could start to feel awfully short.
• The first Group 1 of the thoroughbred season is the Tarzino Trophy at Hastings.
• Ruakaka holds its first race meeting since before the first lockdown, with eight races starting at 12.35pm.
• It's a huge day in Sydney for superstar Kiwis such as Catalyst, Probabeel and Verry Elleegant, with nine races starting at 2.15pm.