Sole flag flyer Majestic Man is going to need to improve for New Zealand to have any chance of lifting an Inter Dominion title over the next fortnight.
The good news for Kiwi harness fans is champion horseman Anthony Butt is certain he will.
The Oamaru trotter won his opening night heat at Menangle, outside Sydney, on Saturday night and is the $2.50 favourite of the A$150,000 trotting final on December 11, New Zealand's only chance of winning an Interdom title this season, with no representatives in the pacing series.
But his win and final price don't tell the real story of night one, as Majestic Man led easily and only just held on, suggesting he is still lengths below his best form, which saw him beat the likes of Sundees Son this time last year, as well as winning three Group 1 races in Australia.
Butt is looking after Majestic Man for trainer Phil Williamson, as well as driving him in the series, and says the improvement needed to win the final is there.
"We had him very fresh going into this round of heats because he had had a tough Cup week in Christchurch," said Butt.
"So he was fresh, and because of that, he over-raced, so he will take natural improvement and I think I will learn more about him, too.
"While he didn't win by much, at the line, he was holding them pretty well and still trotted a half [800m] in 55.3 seconds. So I'm sure he'll get better throughout the series and a couple of the other big names like Tough Monarch and Funky Monkey didn't go that well in their heats, so he's still the one to beat."
Majestic Man's cause during the series should be aided greatly by his naturally high gate speed, which he not only used on Saturday, but will get the chance to use again over the even more suitable 1730m mobile when the series heads to Bathurst on Wednesday night, where he has drawn barrier two.
The series goes to Newcastle on Sunday for the third round of heats before the pacing and trotting finals on December 11 back at Menangle.
With some of the more proven trotters in the series disappointing on opening night, Pink Galahs looks the main danger to Majestic Man, and her $5.50 price to win the final with the TAB looks excellent value.
The pacing series was dominated on opening night by Team McCarthy, who trained both King Of Swing and Expensive Ego to victory.