The Mitigator's assault on the Eagle Technology Stakes looks remarkably similar to last year, but with one potentially costly difference — the weather.
The Mitigator is the favourite to defend the Group 3 title he won last season and the race stacks up almost exactly the same. Last season The Mitigator drew the same barrier four, was able to jump and lead and hold off Beauden — who he races on Saturday — in one of the fastest miles recorded in New Zealand in recent seasons.
It set him up for a superb summer in which he won the Group 1 Thorndon and almost doubled up in the BCD Sprint at Te Rapa, taking some Te Akau Shark brilliance late to undo him.
After a Hastings campaign where nothing went right to start the spring, trainer Peter McKay gave his stable star a week off and started again, and he was back in winning form at Awapuni two weeks ago.
Much of the race and lead-in form matches last season — except for the weather.
The Mitigator was able to gallop such a quick time last season because Ellerslie was perfect whereas after heavy downpours on Wednesday annoying showers hung around Auckland on Thursday.
The warm weather will help to dry the track so there are no panic stations yet but punters might be best advised to wait until Saturday morning to bet.
"I am hoping the showers go because he really is a duffer on wet tracks," explains McKay. "He has such a long stride and gets down really low when he gallops and a few of the jockeys have told me you can feel he doesn't let go in the wet.
"So I am hoping the track comes up well because the race looks ideal."
The Mitigator is also using Saturday's race to get ready for the Captain Cook at Trentham next Saturday as McKay says the big-money miles are his prime target.
"The mile is really his go, I have extended him out to 2000m a few times and he doesn't get it."
If The Mitigator gets that firm track and can jump and roll, it will take a good horse to run him down.
There is good depth to the field though with Beauden good enough to win a major race in the near future, while horses like Tiptronic, Demonetization and Charles Road have already done so.
But 2000m might be the more preferred distance for Beauden, Tiptronic, Charles Road and the luckless last-start favourite Vadavar.
So while any of them could win without surprising, Demonetization may be the best suited to the race and track conditions, and looms as the each-way danger to The Mitigator while Gino Severini looks set to track the leader and should get his chance from the ace.
While there are plenty of established stars in the main race, the Trevor Eagle Memorial a race before is a glimpse into the future, with an array of potential Derby and Oaks horses as trainers start to ask more of the 3-year-olds who weren't deemed forward enough for the Guineas races at Riccarton.
There are nine horses who have won in their last two starts but Tellall has hit the lines very hard in all three starts, two of them victorious, and deserves favouritism.