Trainer Roger James fears what was tough may have become impossible for Two Illicit at Hastings tomorrow.
As good as his high-class mare is, he thinks her two key rivals in the $250,000 Livamol Classic may tick too many boxes, including the all-important wet track box which has surprisingly come into play.
Hastings at this time of spring is expected to provide good footing, but after 40ml of rain this week, the track there today verged on a slow9, with little breeze and low temperatures not helping drying.
Track officials were suggesting a slow8, maybe a slow7, at best tomorrow and that was not the reading James and training partner Robert Wellwood had hoped for.
"We really want a good track and it looks like we are not going to get that," lamented James.
Two Illicit won on a slow track at Ellerslie two starts ago but that was more through sheer class than being comfortable on the surface, whereas the two favourites today in Melody Belle and Avantage have won at Group 1 level on wet tracks.
James says he couldn't be happier with Two Illicit, whose performances on several occasions have suggested she is the real deal, and he is not giving up.
"I am not going to say we can't win, but when you have a 4-year-old mare coming out of age-group racing into weight-for-age, you need everything in their favour, especially up against mares who have won so many Group 1s," said James.
"That extra year or two of maturity is a huge difference so we could have done without the track being against us."
James' comments match those of many trainers in the race and will almost certainly be mirrored by punters, and with Melody Belle already going from $2.60 into $2.20, it wouldn't surprise if she started close to $2. She will also be the horse most Aussies back in the co-mingled as they have also seen her win at the highest level there.
How the Hastings track plays will have a huge influence on punting, with the rail out three metres but two distance races to start the day, meaning plenty of hooves will have dug into the track after just a few races.
Although that may not mean the inside of the track becomes a disadvantage, it should at least stop it being the place to be and it wouldn't surprise to see wider on the track supplying more winners as the third day of the carnival wears on.
Today's mega races
2.58pm: $125,000 Great Northern Steeplechase, Ellerslie.
4.25pm: $250,000 Livamol Classic, Hastings.
6.15pm: A$15 million Everest, Randwick, Sydney.
7.15pm: A$5 million Caulfield Cup, Melbourne.