Has the gap between our two best pacers become this big?
That was the question posed by some stunning bookmaker markets soon after the field was declared for a cracking New Zealand Cup lead-up at Addington on Friday.
The $40,000 Canterbury Classic brings together two-time Cup winner Terror To Love and his last-start conqueror, wonder horse Christen Me, as well as last-start Spring Cup winner Easy On The Eye.
Add in Hunter Cup winner Mah Sish and Hannon Memorial hero Franco Ledger and you should have one of the races of the season so far.
But the hype on Christen Me has got so large that the first bookie opening a market on the 2600m standing start event, the Australian TAB, had him just a $1.40 favourite, with Terror To Love at $4.20.
While Christen Me was super impressive beating Terror To Love when the pair clashed under identical conditions two weeks ago, the gap between them certainly doesn't warrant one being $1.40 and the other $4.20 in what most punters will see as a two-horse race. On that occasion, Christen Me, who looked the more forward of the pair, stepped straight to the lead and jogged around before pacing a 54-second last 800m to beat Terror To Love.
But the runner-up was no less impressive, losing little ground on Christen Me in the home straight after sitting parked.
Add to that the fact Terror To Love (barrier two) has drawn inside Christen Me (eight) this Friday and the lovefest for the latter could be offering punters value for Terror To Love, or any other rival who dares take Christen Me on.
The 5-year-old is undoubtedly a machine-like pacer and a deserved favourite for the New Zealand Cup on November 12 but he has yet to prove he is totally dominant over Terror To Love.
Their clash highlights a sensational meeting at Addington, with most of the south's best trotters also on show in the Canterbury Park Trotting Cup.
Struggling group one stars Stig and Vulcan have to concede starts to some of the most promising trotters in the country, headed by Master Lavros, Jag's Invasion, Cyclone U Bolt and Jaccka Justy.
Other star-studded clashes include Franco Nelson versus Bettor Rock On, Tiger Tara against Iasiah and Arden Rooney, while unbeaten northerner Franco Nikau meets Purdon/Rasmussen stablemates Backup and Bio Marinus as well as Regulus in another hot race.
As if that wasn't enough to make Friday one of the key nights of the harness racing season so far, three-time Interdominion champion I'm Themightyquinn resumes his New Zealand Cup campaign in Perth the same night.
And Alexandra Park holds a bonus open-class race, with pacers like Besotted and Jarcullembra looking to force their way into the Cup.
However, one of the biggest names in pacing has had her racetrack return delayed, albeit briefly.
Last season's champion filly Adore Me was due back at the Ashburton trials yesterday but they were delayed by bad weather.
They have been rescheduled to tomorrow, with co-trainer Mark Purdon expecting Adore Me to resume at the end of the month.
By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of the New Zealand Herald)