Auckland racing bosses are confident of attracting a few more juveniles to a Sistema Stakes that was threatening to have the smallest group one field in years at Ellerslie on Saturday.
The $200,000 Sistema is the first of only two group one juvenile races run all season but drew just four entries yesterday but after some ringing around ARC racing manager Craig Baker is expecting two or even three more by this morning's final withdrawal time.
That will spare the club the highly unusual sight of having a four-horse group one race, which along with the risk of being a poor spectacle means no place betting.
One of the reasons for the tiny numbers is the fear factor around the two favourites, Karaka Million winner On The Bubbles and his last-start conqueror in the Waikato Stud Slipper in Sword Of State.
Most of the juveniles in the country good enough to compete with the pair are actually their stablemates and trainer Jamie Richards has spelled some of them as when young horses hit the wall physically there is often little point racing on.
The trainers of other talented youngsters have opted to be aimed at the 1400m of the other group one juvenile race the Sires' Produce at Awapuni on April 3 while plenty have gone to the paddock after being peaked for the Karaka Million.
Even if Baker had not been able to secure a few more starters, the Sistema was never in danger of being canned as being a black type race it has to be run, even with two acceptors.
Thankfully that won't be the case for one of the three group one races at what was always going to be a huge meeting but could be even bigger than the usual Auckland Cup day this Saturday after Aucklanders look for a party.
With Auckland expected to return to Level 1 for Saturday, Ellerslie bosses are hoping for full access for the public and all their usual hospitality areas.
"We are yet to totally confirm that but that is what we are aiming for and if the Government says we are back to Level 1 for Saturday we want to have a great meeting and a much-deserved party," says ARC chief executive Paul Wilcox.
"So we will try and let people know as soon as we know but we are sure people will be following the updates just like we are," says Wilcox.
The party on the track will start early with one of the glamour girls of New Zealand racing Levante set to dominate the first race, with the Royal Descent Stakes put in that 12.40pm time slot as she may be red hot with potentially six rivals.
After the Sistema as race six will come the Bonecrusher NZ Stakes in which Melody Belle will attempt to become our most successful ever group one galloper with 14 elite level wins.
She will attempt to do so with a new rider with Troy Harris replacing Opie Bosson, with the champion jockey set to ride stablemate and greatest danger Avantage, who is also the defending champion.
Again the field doesn't look set to boast big numbers but of the eight entries yesterday six are group one winners, four of them in the last three months.
The $500,000 Barfoot And Thompson Auckland Cup will have close to a capacity field though with five late entries yesterday taking it to 17, with Sound the $3.20 pre-draw favourite.
Fields for the mammoth day will be out around 10.30am on Wednesday.
AUCKLAND CUP DAY
The last major race day of the Auckland summer season.
Saturday, first race 12.40pm.
Three group one races, Melody Belle trying to become NZ's most successful ever group one galloper.
Who can go?
If Auckland returns to Level 1 as planned on Friday the meeting will be open to the public, with limited hospitality packages still available but plenty of general admission.
At Level 1, Ellerslie will hold one of its famed after parties.