For a young man on the eve of the biggest drive of his career, Dylan Ferguson has been left disappointed and confused.
But he will still head to Alexandra Park tonight hoping for his first unofficial Group 1 victory, even though his name won't appear in the record books should Classy Operator win the $95,000 Cardigan Bay Stakes.
Ferguson was maybe the worst affected among at least six Waikato-based drivers who will not be allowed to drive at tonight's premier meeting at Alexandra Park, causing a dramatic reshuffle.
Ferguson's father Peter, David Butcher, Todd Mitchell, Matthew White and Alicia Harrison were all told yesterday they would no longer be able to drive at the meeting even though they had been granted Government exemptions to do so.
The change came when newly-formed Racing NZ, made of up the heads of the three codes, asked the Department of Internal Affairs for clarification of the rules about horse people being allowed to travel into Auckland under level 3 and work at the race meeting.
It was deemed that for reasons of horse welfare and safety trainers and assistants are allowed to attend the meeting and work with and on horses, but they are not allowed to drive them.
That means some trainer-drivers will be at tonight's meeting working in a separate area for Waikato horsepeople and horses but rather than be allowed to hop in the sulky and drive them, where there is next to no chance they will touch another human being, they have to hand the reins to an Auckland region-based driver.
The main reason is that the horse people were adjudged to have only been given exemptions to look after the horses but not drive them. It frustrates Ferguson even more because he has had a work exemption from last August that was filed with its main reasons being he was able to travel for the purpose of race driving, which he says has been rolled over.
"That is what makes me really disappointed," he told the Herald.
"I applied for the exemption to go drive horses and was granted it and it has rolled over. But now to be told I can go gear up my horse but not drive it doesn't make any sense.
"I am trying to be pragmatic about it and respect the rules but if I had been told right at the start, or even the start of this week, I couldn't drive as a blanket ban on travelling drivers, then I'd have to accept that.
"But to be told this the day before my first real winning chance in a Group 1 doesn't feel fair."
Ferguson, who is stable foreman and unofficial trainer for Graeme Rogerson, is showing restraint by suggesting he and Rogerson are lucky to have secured Maurice McKendry as a replacement for Classy Operator, who could lead and be hard to beat in the juvenile sprint.
American Dealer in the $200,000 Woodlands Derby loses regular driver David Butcher, replaced by James Stormont. Race three favourite Need You Now loses driver John Dunn, who is replaced by Brent Mangos while Ben Butcher swaps from Enjoy Me to Darling Me for the Northern Oaks, with Todd MacFarlane filling in on Enjoy Me.