The third leg of the 2021 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters takes place this Friday night.
And action heads across the ditch with the running of the Gr.1 $95,000 HR Fisken & Sons ANZAC Cup at Alexandra Park, Auckland.
The ANZAC Cup will be followed by the Gr.1 $150,000 Rowe Cup next week at the same venue.
As it stands, following the two opening legs of the Trotting Masters, which were staged in Melbourne at TABCORP Park, Melton – the spoils were split following the victory of Tornado Valley in the $300,000 What The Hill Great Southern Star while the New Zealand prepared Majestic Man scored in the $100,000 Hygain Australian Grand Prix.
So, the race to be crowned the 2021 Trotting Master is very much alive.
And the frontrunner for the title is Majestic Man as the Phil Williamson prepared star has returned to his homeland and starts in Friday night’s feature.
The 2200m mobile start feature inaugurated in 2012 when champion performer I Can Doosit proved triumphant while the likes of Stent, Superbowlcheerleader, Sheemon, Monbet, Habibti Ivy, Lemond and Sundees Son have also tasted success.
Last year, the event was not staged owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A field of seven will chase the prize on Friday night and while numbers are light on the quality is unbelievably deep.
Last start Gr.1 New Zealand Trotting Championship winner Muscle Mountain is a notable omission while all the other headline acts take their place.
Majestic Man has returned from an outstanding Australian campaign which netted him three Gr.1 victories (Dullard Cup, Grand Prix & Aquagait Equine Mile) earlier this year.
The Phil and Brad Williamson prepared trotter has not started since winning the Sydney feature, the Aquagait Equine Mile in 1:53.5 back on March 6.
Before leaving for his Aussie campaign back in January, Majestic Man won the Gr.3 Cambridge Flying Stakes while in his most recent start at Alexandra Park, he finished third behind Sundees Son and Bolt For Brilliance in the Gr.1 National Trot.
The Majestic Man gelding will start from the inside draw as he chases a hat-trick of Gr.1 victories.
Interestingly, Phil Williamson has never prepared a winner of the ANZAC Cup to date.
Boom trotter Oscar Bonavena returns to the North Island for trainer Hayden Cullen and driver Mark Purdon following two runs back in Christchurch recently.
The Majestic Son gelding finished a pleasing second in his return from an injury enforced layoff while he had legitimate excuses last start with wheel issues behind Muscle Mountain in the New Zealand Trotting Championship at his most recent start.
Boasting two wins from four starts at the track, Oscar Bonavena was placed in the 2019 Gr.1 National Trot behind Winterfell and Majestic Man.
Oscar Bonavena, co-owned by the legendary Roy Purdon along with outstanding North American based horseman Chris Ryder, will start from gate two which will provide Purdon with plenty of options.
Talented performer Woodstone is chasing his maiden Gr.1 victory and although winless in three starts this campaign, he’s good enough to feature.
Prepared by Robert Dunn and to be driven by Peter Ferguson, Woodstone is already Gr.1 placed after finishing second behind Speeding Spur in the 2018 New Zealand Trotting Championship.
A five times winner at the track, Woodstone raced well last week after starting from a big (35m) handicap.
Perennial performer Temporale is the oldest performer in this year’s feature but the Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett trained trotter continues to race in excellent form.
The multiple Gr.1 winner and highest earning runner in this field boasts 13 victories at the track and is looking to improve on his previous efforts in this event after finishing 12th behind Sundees Son (2019), 7th behind Lemond (2018) and 4th behind Habibti Ivy (2017).
Tony Cameron is booked to the drive the eight-year-old gelding.
Reigning New Zealand Trotter of the Year Sundees Son is another trotter from the stables of Robert Dunn and the defending champion looks set for another big showing following his recent efforts.
Sundees Son was overhauled late by Muscle Mountain in the Gr.1 New Zealand Trotting Championship last start at Addington.
The Majestic Son gelding returns to Auckland where he boasts a fine record of 5 wins and 3 placings from 12 starts at the track.
No trotter has ever recorded back-to-back victories in the event.
Sundees Son has won both the ANZAC and Rowe Cups previously.
Leading reinsman John Dunn again takes the drive.
Emerging star Bolt For Brilliance looms as a formidable rival following a successful southern campaign which resulted in a victory in the Gr.3 Trotters Classic before finishing third behind Muscle Mountain and Sundees Son in the Gr.1 New Zealand Trotting Championship.
With 10 wins from 21 starts, 8 of those victories have come via his home track of Alexandra Park.
The Muscle Hill four-year-old is prepared by champion horseman Tony Herlihy.
Amazingly, Herlihy has never won an ANZAC Cup.
Talented Ashburton trotter One Apollo makes his Alexandra Park debut for trainer Brent White and first-time driver Tim Williams and faces a tough job owing to the draw.
The One Over Da Moon gelding struck trouble at his most recent start in the Gr.1 New Zealand Trotting Championship behind Muscle Mountain.
The only driver who has multiple victories in the ANZAC Cup is Blair Orange (Superbowlcheerleader & Habibti Ivy) but the star reinsman does not have a drive this year.
Both Mark Purdon and John Dunn can join him if successful.
Two mares have won the ANZAC Cup (Superbowlcheerleader & Habibti Ivy) but the fairer sex is not represented this year.
The Gr.1 $95,000 HR Fisken & Sons ANZAC Cup is race 6 on the program and listed to start at 7.51pm local time.
The first five placed starters are guaranteed a start in the 2021 Rowe Cup run next week if nominated.