Brent Mangos has fired the first tactical shots with South Coast Arden ahead of the $900,000 The Race By Grins.
If the Pukekohe trainer-driver gets his way, his second-favourite could be settling a long way in front of favourite Self Assured in the big-money slot race at Cambridge on Thursday.
The two favourites drew potentially the worst two barriers when South Coast Arden got barrier seven and Self Assured barrier eight for the 2200m mobile.
Self Assured's trainer-driver Mark Purdon says he expects to pull back at the start and move into the race later, tactics he also expected from Mangos on South Coast Arden.
Mangos has other ideas.
"I will be working forward," he told the Herald. "I will make my mind up how fast that happens after 50m when I see what is happening inside me, but I have to go forward.
"So that could be nice and easy early and let them sort themselves out and then roll forward, or maybe a little quicker than that."
South Coast Arden beat Self Assured twice over the summer when able to lead, including in the Group 1 New Zealand Free-For-All at Addington.
He also led to produce the performance of Jewels day last June when he bullied his way to the front from barrier seven over 1700m, and with the potential some of the Australian speedsters drawn inside him could be happy to trail South Coast Arden, an aggressive Mangos has a shot at getting the lead.
That would change the dynamic of The Race and potentially force Self Assured to sit parked in the middle stages, his least favourite tactic and similar to what he was forced to do when South Coast Arden beat him.
Mangos says South Coast Arden is exactly where he needs to be, his preparation having been topped off by a trial at Cambridge last Thursday.
"I couldn't have asked him to trial any better than he did last week so he is ready."
South Coast Arden is on second line of betting at $4.50, with Self Assured remarkably not budging from his pre-draw price of $2.40 even after drawing the worst barrier.
"We didn't want to move him too much because we think punters will come later in the week for the Purdon factor," said TAB bookmaker Matt Peden.
Cambridge chief executive David Branch says there are still a couple of hospitality tables available for the night which starts at 6.05pm, with the last of eight races at 9.20pm, then entertainment until just before midnight.
"We are really focusing on general admission and getting people to come enjoy the night in a relaxed fun way.
"There is supposed to be rain in the days leading up to Thursday but it is forecast at this stage to be gone by the afternoon of The Race and we want to make it a fun night because this is all something new and we want to start with a bang." - Michael Guerin, NZ Herald