The first Group 1 race of the thoroughbred season has been rocked by a second major withdrawal following the shock retirement of champion mare Avantage.
The nine-time Group 1 winner's race career is over after heat found in her leg yesterday led to her being diagnosed with a tendon injury that has forced her out of today's $220,000 Tarzino Trophy at Hastings and into the broodmare paddock.
The news comes just two days after Catalyst pulled out of the race, meaning the two horses who headed the market for the Tarzino on Tuesday night won't head to the 1400m starting gates.
While Catalyst will be back in a few weeks Avantage's injury ends a magnificent career that spanned from a Karaka Million win as a two-year-old to the Railway-Telegraph double this year as a five-year-old.
"It is a real shame to lose her from the stable and we had had no indications, she was perfectly sound during her gallop on Thursday morning," said trainer Jamie Richards.
"She is a wonderful mare who had so many great wins it is hard to pinpoint one but maybe the Karaka Million was her most exciting.
"She will be sold as a broodmare prospect, being a syndicate horse, and is obviously worth a fortune."
The withdrawal of Avantage leaves defending champion Callsign Mav the new $3.30 favourite for the Tarzino.
The rain that fell on the Hastings track on Thursday had his trainer John Bary rating it a slow8 yesterday during his track inspection but with a chance to come back to a slow7 because of the sunny afternoon and strong breeze.
The better the track the more it would suit Callsign Mav, who goes into the Tarzino on the back of some strong trials and as the only proven weight-for-age 1400m performer.
While the Tarzino picture has been confused by the scratchings and weather, the favourites in today's two major three-year-old races, I Wish I Win and Imperatriz, both have wet-track form at the highest level so punters can bet with confidence that they will handle any conditions.
It won't just be Hastings that captures punters' attention today, with New Zealand's best galloper Probabeel among the favourites for the A$1 million Rupert Clarke at Caulfield, a race that should set up perfectly for her, although the stronger the tempo the better.
Her stablemate Amarelinha faces a tricky fresh-up test at Randwick in Sydney while tomorrow the historic Pakuranga Hunt Cup will be run at Te Aroha.