By Michael Guerin
New Zealand isn't going to be short of Melbourne Cup week representation but markets are suggesting trips to the winner's circle could be in short supply.
Kiwi trainers will have four big-name gallopers in group races at Flemington on Saturday as at least a partial crowd will give Derby Day some sense of normality to the start of the famed carnival.
But for all the talents of Amarelinha, Kahma Lass, Sword Of State and Tutakaka the Waikato quartet could be in for a tough day at the office.
The first three of that trio are already group one winners at home but the depth of opposition they face this Saturday is driven home by the fact Amarelinha, in the A$1million Empire Rose, is the most favoured of the trio and even then she is $15 in opening markets.
Amarelinha arrives in Melbourne after a luckless two-start Sydney campaign and while she has the services of James McDonald, who says she will be very competitive on Saturday, she meets a very strong field headlined by Tofane, Mystic Journey, Colette and Sierra Sue.
From barrier four she should be able to stay handier than she did during her two Sydney outings and Flemington should but she will need to be up to her best form of last season as she meets one of the strongest mares races put together in Australia in recent seasons.
Because the Empire Rose was significantly stronger than The Invitation run in Sydney last Saturday thanks to the weight-for-age conditions, group one status and the 1600m distance, not to mention a A$1million bonus cunningly attached to the race.
While Ameralinha finds herself in a brutally tough mares race stablemate Kahma Lass meets some of Australia's elite milers in the A$2million Cantala so her task isn't going to be any easier, even from the ace draw.
In a race boasting plenty of New Zealand-bred horses, including The Invitation winner Icebath, Kahma Lass is rated a $41 chance.
Sword Of State has done little wrong but without going much right in Sydney and meets a star-studded line up in the A$2million Coolmore.
It is a race worth far than the winning stake to any colt who can take it out, with an almost guaranteed stud career so has drawn the brightest and the best of the three-year-old sprinting crop.
Sword Of State beat some of those in a Flemington jump out last week but the field is so strong he opened up $41 in Australia. Still, if he wins he will be worth $15-20million at least by Saturday night.
Tutukaka is the most favoured New Zealander on Saturday around the $8-10 mark in the Victoria Derby and he too has the services of McDonald for trainer Tony Pike.
His Geelong Classic win last week suggests he is peaking at the right time but he meets a strong Derby field so will need to produce something special to join half-sister Melody Belle as a group one Cup week winner.
While Saturday looks tough for the Kiwis next Tuesday isn't going to get an easier, with most of the big names still in play for the Melbourne Cup.
That means The Chosen One and Ocean Billy will be long odds come Tuesday although the chances of last season's Caulfield Cup winner Verry Elleegant, who is still part-owned in New Zealand, starting seem to be improving and she will add a real Kiwi spin to the iconic race.