Classy mare Avantage headlines a field of fillies and mares gunning for Group 1 glory in the Fiber Fresh New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes (1600m) at Te Aroha on Saturday.
The Jamie Richards-trained mare has been in terrific form this campaign, winning her first four starts back after a spell, all at Group 1 level.
She kicked off the preparation by claiming the 1200m double of the Railway and Telegraph in January before her dominant 3.5L success in the BCD Group Sprint.
She overcame a wide passage when stepping up to today's distance to land the El Cheapo Cars at Otaki before her winning streak came to an end when she attempted 2000m in the Bonecrusher Stakes and had to settle for second behind New Zealand's other mighty mare Melody Belle.
There are no Melody Belles among the line up for the Breeders' and while Avantage has had a month off, that suits her coming back to the mile having been kept up to the mark with a trial.
Jockey Opie Bosson has built a strong association with Avantage, winning eight of 11 rides, and the mare is beautifully placed with all nine runners carrying the same weight.
If there is to be an upset it is most likely to come in the form of Levante.
The mare is highly progressive and took her record to seven wins from 10 starts when landing the Royal Descent Stakes over today's journey.
The racebook says Levante was more than seven lengths astern of Avantage when they last clashed in the BCD Sprint but she stood in the stalls that day and lost six lengths so the performance was much better than it reads on paper.
Levante charged home to be just 1.1 lengths behind Avantage when third in the Railway and that gives her some chance of turning the tables over the mile.
Coventina Bay is the other that brings winning form into the Breeders', scoring at three of her past four and eight from 13 overall.
She has a couple of recent G3 wins – the latest in the Cuddle Stakes over the mile – so is a definite trifecta player.
Back Avantage to win; include Levante & Coventina Bay in multiples.