As the racing season prepares to dish out its final Group 1 glories, the great autumn weather watch has begun on both sides of the Tasman.
The thoroughbred racing season doesn't end until July 31, but unless you are heading to Queensland, like Melody Belle, the Group 1 opportunities and their sometimes millions of dollars in residual worth dry up in a few weeks.
Sooner if racing domestically, with the last Group1 of the New Zealand season, the $200,000 NZ Breeders Stakes at Te Aroha, on Saturday.
The game of musical jockeys for the mares' 1600m has already been intense, with Sam Collett now confirmed to stick with Levante, freeing up the rides on Coventina Bay (Craig Grylls) and Travelling Light (Jonathan Riddell).
Opie Bosson will partner favourite Avantage after he was originally set to head to Sydney to ride Sword Of State, but that campaign was canned because of Sydney's expected return of the rain this week.
If rain comes to the north this week, Avantage could start odds-on at Te Aroha with her proven wet-track record.
No trainer is hoping Te Aroha comes up with a good track more than Levante's trainer Ken Kelso.
"The better the track, the better for us," says Kelso.
"She would probably still start on a slow track but she wasn't as good on it when she trialled at Matamata last Wednesday.
"But this is her last race for the season, so she would start even if we didn't think it was ideal."
Kelso, and the trainer of any other mare not suited by the conditions at Te Aroha, have the option of waiting two weeks and heading to the Easter Handicap at Ellerslie, where high-class filly Bonham is going, even though she is rated a $12 chance for the Breeders Stakes.
"But we haven't even thought of that option — we're hoping we don't have to," says Kelso.
The Kiwis were luckless or simply run off their hooves in Sydney on Saturday, and The Frontman, who was well beaten in the Tulloch, is one who will appreciate the rain forecast for Tuesday to Thursday this week heading into the A$2 million ATC Derby.
"He handled the good4 on Saturday well," says co-trainer Andrew Forsman, "but a wetter track might bother him less than some others."
Forsman also co-trains Aegon, who would seem more at home on a mid-range or even a slow track in Saturday's A$3 million Doncaster.
He trialled well last week and carries only 52.5kg on Saturday, although there are plenty of other potential stars also down in the weights for the glamour mile.
Matamata star Rocket Spade is one Kiwi who can win the Derby rain or shine but his stablemate Force Of Will may need another autumn target, as she failed to stay 2000m in the Vinery on Saturday, so looks very unlikely to be potent over 2400m in the A$1 million ATC Oaks on Saturday week.
The favourite for that classic, Amarelinha, will trial at Ellerslie tomorrow and get on a plane to Sydney next Monday with Entriviere if it looks like the Randwick track could be okay for the Oaks.
"But we will be watching the weather, that will be crucial," says trainer Jamie Richards.
As for his 14-time Group 1 winner Melody Belle, she won't race in Sydney again, instead heading to Queensland for the Hollindale Cup, Doomben Cup and then the sales ring.
"She just had no luck on Saturday from her wide draw. She draws better and I think she runs top three," says Richards.
The Chosen One was trapped wide in that same Tancred Stakes after jockey Hugh Bowman rolled the dice going forward early but Forsman says it was a gamble worth taking and he is still on target for the Sydney Cup on Saturday week.