New Zealand's richest Group 1 juvenile race has been turned on its head with the withdrawal of long-time favourite Sword Of State.
The $1.60 futures favourite didn't accept for Saturday's $225,000 Sires' Produce at Awapuni because of the almost-certain wet track, which was rated a slow8 yesterday.
He will instead head to Sydney next week and if track conditions suit contest the A$1 million Inglis Sires' over 1400m at Royal Randwick in the eastern suburbs, victory in which would give him the all-important Australian Group 1 to seal his future stallion career.
It appears Sword Of State may be heading to the right Group 1, too, as Golden Slipper winner Stay Inside and several of the other leading two-year-olds in Australia are set to bypass the Sires' and head to the spelling paddock.
"Sydney is the plan at this stage," says Te Akau boss David Ellis.
"We didn't want to go to Awapuni because of the wet track and with the weather looking like it is improving in Sydney, he might get a track to suit there next week.
"We know he is a very high-quality colt and think he is up to Group 1 company in Australia and we want to show that."
News that Sword Of State was heading to Sydney instantly saw him put back in the Sires' market by the Australian TAB as the $6 second-favourite behind Slipper runner-up Anamoe.
He adds to what will be some impressive New Zealand firepower for the first day of The Championships in Sydney with Rocket Spade and The Frontman headlining the Kiwi chances in the $2 million ATC Derby and Aegon set to take on the older horses in the $3 million Doncaster the same day.
Sword Of State will join stablemates Probabeel and Melody Belle who are already in Sydney while Amarelinha (ATC Oaks) and Entriviere (Sapphire Stakes) will also head there later to race on April 17.
Sword Of State not heading to Awapuni was a shock to punters and caused a huge realignment of that market with his Karaka Million winning stablemate On The Bubbles the new favourite.
While Sword Of State would be rated New Zealand's best juvenile galloper, having won the Group 1 Sistema at Ellerslie on March 13, if On The Bubbles wins the only other Group 1 juvenile race on Saturday he will jump back into pole position for New Zealand two-year-old of the year.
Most voters look at winning records and winning two of the big three juvenile races would almost certainly secure him the award unless Sword Of State triumphs in Sydney.
The big wet across the country will have most punters waiting until Saturday to get involved in the markets for places such as Awapuni and Ellerslie, with Riverton also racing on Saturday and Addington hosting harness' Easter Cup meeting.