New Zealand will have a strong hand in the two pacing classics in Melbourne this Saturday but defending champion Sundon's Gift is set to dominate the Interdominion Trotting Final after a busy weekend of feature harness racing in Victoria.
New Zealand's two Victoria Derby challengers both looked realistic chances in the classic when qualifying at Melton on Friday night, with Sir Lincoln, who races in Australia as Lincoln Royal, winning impressively.
If he draws to lead in the A$150,000 Derby he could start favourite after a stunning win, leading most of the way in his heat to win after a torrid early speed battle.
Courage To Rule also qualified by finishing third in his heat, with Major Bronski andthe impressive other heat winners.
New Zealand's chances in the A$400,000 Hunter Cup this Saturday took no harm when Bondy confirmed his spot with a track record win in the A$20,000 Pure Steel, leading all the way in the 2710m standing start event.
Two races later defending Hunter Cup champion, driven by Anthony Butt, finished a brave second to in the A$125,000 Ballarat Cup on Saturday night.
But the Interdominion trotting final looks to be at the mercy of defending champion's Gift if he draws well following his effortless heat win at Ballarat.
He overcame having to race wide early to win easily while his stablemate and pre-series favouritesuffered a shock defeat in the other heat. He over-raced viciously in the middle stages and faded to fifth in the heat won by former Kiwi battler Cilla's .
If's Gift draws inside on the front line for the final he could start as short as $1.60.
The draws for all three feature races on the final night of harness racing at Moonee Valley will be made tomorrow.
* Bonus-chasing filly Millwood Miami was one of the only winners to emerge from the abandonment of yesterday's harness meeting at Tauranga.
Racing at the Gate Pa track was abandoned after one race because of safety concerns after very heavy rain left surface water on the track.
Millwood Miami went into the meeting chasing a $20,000 grass track circuit bonus if she won but with the meeting being abandoned before her race her connections still get a $10,000 payout.
Courtesy Michael GUERIN of the New Zealand Herald