New Zealand horses hold the key to the $1 million Inter Dominion despite the absence of the Shaky Isles' premier trainer, Mark Purdon.
Purdon nominated four horses - Auckland Reactor, Major Mark, Highview Tommy and Sushi Sushi - but didn't pay up for a single runner when second acceptors closed for Saturday night's qualifying heats in Sydney (two), Melbourne, Perth and Auckland.
In fact, a disappointing field of only three runners will line up in the Auckland heat, worth $50,000 at Group 2 level.
But series favourite and reigning New Zealand Cup champion Terror To Love, New Zealand free-for-all king The Gold Ace and record-breaking recent Alexandra Park winner Lincoln Royal could all earn automatic entry into the $750,000 final.
Only two of the three are guaranteed an automatic spot in the March 3 decider, but New South Wales Harness Racing Club boss John Dumesny hinted New Zealand's lucky loser may still be worthy of a wildcard entry.
"There's only three in the heat in New Zealand, but they claim they are the equal to any of the other horses nominated and there's only two guaranteed a spot in the grand final," Dumesny said. "That doesn't mean three won't make it.
"While it might seem disappointing, you've got to take into context they've been most unlucky with injury and form through the likes of Auckland Reactor, Highview Tommy and Choice Achiever."
Add Tim Butt's Ballarat Cup and A.G. Hunter Cup winner Mah Sish, which drew perfectly in gate two in the second of two heats at Menangle, and the Kiwis appear odds-on to provide at least four of the 14 grand final starters for The Race To Sydney.
Terror To Love is quoted by TAB Sportsbet at $3.20 to win the series, with The Gold Ace on the fifth line of betting at $7.50.